Weightlifting and CrossFit can be a great way to develop full-body strength. While CrossFit pays attention to mobility, it’s still easy to incur imbalances in the body—especially when you head to a desk and sit for eight hours or more right afterward. A strong but tight front body puts you at risk for both overuse injuries that come from chronic imbalance between muscle groups and acute injuries, especially to the back, as you lift or go through other daily movements.
Yoga to the rescue! Here is a sequence of poses to counter the front-of-the-body tightness that lifting can create. Include these poses at the end of your weight session and revisit them over the course of your day to release the tension and counteract the shortening of the chest and hip flexors that can result. Practice these regularly and you’ll balance your hard-earned strength with supple flexibility.
1. Warrior I with Cactus Arms
Take a lunge stance, front knee over front ankle, back heel angled in, for Warrior I. (If this leg placement is too tough, balance on the ball of the back foot with the heel lifted instead.) Spread your arms into a W shape like cactus arms, leaning your fingers back as you squeeze your elbows down. Hold 10–15 breaths. For a more dynamic approach, inhale your arms overhead, then exhale them to the W shape, as if you were doing a lat pulldown. Switch sides.
VARIATIONS Try this standing in a doorframe. Step your front leg through the door and hold the frame with your hands. Spend several breaths with the hands in various positions: the W of cactus arms, a Y overhead, an inverted V with hands at hip height.
2. Low Lunge with Side Lean
Take a Low Lunge, front knee over front ankle, back knee down. Lower your hips toward your front heel to alleviate pressure on the back-leg kneecap and to stretch deeper into the back-leg hip flexors. With your front-side arm on your thigh, lift your back-side arm overhead, then lean toward the side of the front leg. Hold 10–15 breaths.
VARIATION To make the stretch more dynamic, inhale and lift your arm, exhale to side lean, and repeat for several cycles. For a balance challenge, try looking up toward your raised arm.
3. Camel Pose, Variation
Start sitting on your heels, knees together or spread slightly. If this is too tough on your ankles or knees, slide a pillow between your calves and hamstrings. Reach your fingers behind you until you feel a pleasant stretch up the ankles, shins, thighs, and chest. Stay 10–15 breaths.
VARIATION For more, lift your hips to add the stretch in the hip flexors.
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4. Supported Fish Pose
Using a rolled yoga mat, bolster, or blanket, lie back with the support running vertically up your spine in Supported Fish Pose. Stretch your legs long, or keep your knees bent if that feels better. Spread your arms off to the sides until you feel a stretch along your chest. Stay 20–25 breaths or more. As the initial stretch fades, explore various arm positions, to release through the fibers of the pectoralis muscles.
VARIATION For more intensity, turn your support horizontal to your spine, with its upper edge just under the tips of your shoulder blades.
5. Supported Bridge Pose
Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Lay your rolled mat, bolster, or a yoga block under the bony back side of your pelvis, a few inches below your natural waistline, for Supported Bridge Pose. Stretch your legs and, if it’s comfortable, your arms away from center and enjoy the release across the front of the hips. Stay 20–25 breaths or more.
6. Cross-Legged Reclining Twist
From your back, knees bent, cross one leg tightly over the other. Drop your knees to the bottom-leg side, rolling to the outer hip of the bottom leg to stretch the outer hip of the top leg in a Cross-Legged Twist Pose. Keep your shoulders low and turn your gaze away from your legs. Arrange your arms to encourage openness across the chest.
Practice all six poses along with Sage.
About Sage Rountree
Sage Rountreeis author of several books, including The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga and Racing Wisely. She teaches workshops on yoga for athletes nationwide and online at YogaVibes. Find her on Twitter and on Facebook.