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Yoga for Athletes

Yoga for Athletic Recovery: 5 Poses to Max Out Training Benefits

You may spend serious time sweating, but it's the space between workouts that counts. Sage Rountree's yoga poses will help you get the most out of your recovery time.

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You aren’t realizing the full benefit of your workout routine unless you’re giving equal attention to recovery. Sage Rountree offers poses to maximize your downtime.

Workouts are great—between the adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment, they leave us happily fatigued. But the real work of training lies in giving your body time and space to adapt to the stress of your workout, so that you are stronger for the next one. This is the subject of my book The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.

Yoga to the rescue! A few long-held, mellow, low-to-the-ground poses complement your workout with a work-in: paying attention to your body and breath, inducing the relaxation response, and jump-starting your recovery. Here’s a taste appropriate for virtually everyone. For more, join me late afternoon Saturday, April 9 at YJ LIVE! NYC for a sweet practice for athletes and tired conference-goers alike.

Grab your bolster and yoga blocks. If you don’t have them at home, use one or two pillows from your bed. You can wrap a few hardcover books in a hand towel to create a block-like prop.

Squirmy Cat-Cow Pose

sage rountree, cat/cow

Start on your hands and knees and tune in with “wiggly” exploration. This can begin as a traditional CatCow flow—inhale to arch your back, exhale to round it—but should quickly evolve into organic expression of whatever feels good to your tired body. You might drop one or both elbows and add side bending, twisting, or a shift back toward Child’s Pose. Everything is fair game. Continue for as long as you like.

Supported Child’s Pose

sage rountree, restorative yoga, restorative child's pose, balasana

Place two blocks in a line vertically on your mat and set your bolster on top of them. (If you don’t have props, simply stack two pillows.) Straddle the support with your knees and settle into Child’s Pose, resting your torso and head on the bolster or pillows. If you rest on one cheek, be sure to turn your head to the other side halfway through the pose. Stay to your taste—at least 25 breath, and up to 10 minutes.

Supported Fish Pose with Cobbler Legs

sage rountree, restorative yoga, restorative fish pose, matsyasana

Set one block horizontally on its lowest level, underneath your back ribs, just below the bottom tips of the shoulder blades. Place the other block on its medium level, horizontally, underneath the back of your head. Or, for a sweeter expression, lie back on a bolster or pillows, arms spread out to the side heavy on the floor.

Rest the soles of your feet together and spread your knees to either side, supporting them if you have additional props handy. Stay for a while, tracking the flow of breath up and down the front of your body. Holding this shape for several minutes helps undo tightness in the front of the chest, an area where muscles typically shorten when we spend a lot of time typing, holding ski poles, or gripping bike handlebars.

Supported Bridge Pose

sage rountree, restorative yoga, restorative bridge pose, setu bandha sarvangasana

Place a block on its lowest or second-lowest height horizontally underneath the back of your pelvis for a supported Bridge Pose. As you come to trust your block, you may walk your feet away from your face and/or lift your arms overhead. Stay for 25 breaths or longer. You’ll be countering tightness in the hip flexors while enjoying a gentle inversion.

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

sage rountree, restorative yoga, legs up the wall pose, viparita karani

Finish by resting with your legs up the wall, a closed and locked door, or on your coffee table (in which case your knees will be bent with your calves on the tabletop). If you like, place a block or bolster under the back of your pelvis. Spread your arms out to a position that feels pleasant across your chest, and stay to your heart’s content.

More from Sage Rountree

Try Sage’s 12-Minute Core Strength (for Real People)

Sign up now for Sage’s sessions, including Yoga for Athletic Recovery, Core Strength for Real People, and Building Better Balance, at Yoga Journal LIVE! New York, April 8–11.

Endurance sports coach Sage Rountree is an internationally recognized expert in yoga for athletes and author of six books, including The Athlete’s Guide to Yogaand Everyday Yoga. Co-owner of the Carolina Yoga Company, she directs its 200- and 500-hour teacher trainings and offers professional development courses for teachers at Learn more at