(Excerpted from Yoga for Paddling with Anna Levesque)
Yoga for paddling emphasizes the importance of strengthening the muscles we underuse in paddling and stretching the muscles that we overuse. Our hips, low back, and legs experience a double whammy in our culture due to the time we spend sitting – at our desks, in our cars, watching TV, and so on. All that sitting can lead to chronically contracted hip flexors and hamstrings. Kayakers and canoeists also then sit in their boats. SUP paddlers are a little better off, but their lower bodies are still susceptible to imbalances.
One yoga pose that lengthens the hip flexors and quadriceps, which are both chronically contracted in paddlers, is the low lunge. This pose also strengthens the glutes in the front leg when the heel of the front foot is pressing into the floor.
Basic Low Lunge
- There are a few different ways to move into this pose. The first is to start on your hands and knees and step one foot forward between your hands. The other is to start in down dog and step your foot forward between your hands. Another is to start from standing, step on leg back, and take your back knee down. It doesn’t matter which transition you use. I’m going to start us in down dog.
- From down dog, step your left foot forward between your hands.
- Take your back knee down, while keeping your hands on either side of your front foot.
- If necessary, move your front foot forward until your front knee is in line with your front ankle, with your front knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your back toes curled under for support and as a gentle stretch to the foot. Keep your hands on either side of the front foot.
- Press the front heel into the mat to engage the back of the front leg, and take the sitz bones back and apart. This will lift your hips slightly away from the floor and change the feel of the stretch.
- Keeping the above alignment, press your back knee into the floor and lengthen up through your hip flexor.
- Hold for five deep and easy breaths.
- Switch sides and repeat.
To learn more about how yoga can improve your paddling and balance your body, check out Anna’s new book Yoga for Paddling. Order through the Mind Body Paddle webstore before December 31st, 2017 for a copy signed by Anna and receive free shipping! Also check out our other holiday specials on kayak and SUP instruction and Ayurveda Wellness Counseling packages. Save up to $100 while giving a meaningful gift this Holiday Season!