Yoga for Recovery
I’m neither a yoga teacher nor a yoga expert. But I have used yoga to recover from a multiple hip fracture due to a nasty bike crash while training for my relay team a few weeks before the Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championships in Cebu last August 2016.
The road to regaining my fitness level after losing mobility in my hip area was difficult. Practicing yoga played an intergal role in my swift recovery. With the help of yoga, it took me only six weeks to walk again and 14 weeks to race in Bellevue Bohol 5150 last November and came fourth in my age group.
How does yoga help in recovery after injury?
It’s a low impact activity that increases flexibility and develops strength. It allows your muscles, that have either shut down or atrophied, to wake slowly, at a pace that is safe and keeps you protected from further injury. It allows you to work on strengthening using your body weight, which gives just the right amount of progress so that you don’t feel bored or get discouraged.
Yoga teaches you the value of perseverance coupled with patience. Since yoga is a practice you build on slowly, from the simplest version of a pose all the way to its most difficult and full expression, it’s a great psychological tool in mastering an athlete’s emotions. Too often we are in a hurry to reach our fitness goals and that is what results in injury. By developing our mental concentration and acuity, yoga helps us achieve our long-term goals. It trains us to hold back to move forward.
It teaches you to have a high level of body awareness. With the slow deliberate stretches, you feel the most minute group of muscles in your body, and in the process, you learn to accept just how much you can push your body to its limits and when to back down.
Even if you have not suffered from an injury, yoga has many benefits and aids in recovery from expected muscle wear and tear. Many of our muscles get severely tight from endurance training, and yoga is a great complement to help relax these. The deep stretching opens up the muscles, allowing increased blood flow and detoxification. Yoga teaches you how to breathe, allowing more fresh oxygen to enter your bloodstream, which in turn will help repair muscles on a cellular level, and promote muscular elasticity.
Here are some of my favorite yoga stretches that I do to help release tightness from different muscle groups:
How to do it: From a plank position, step your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand, and in line with both your hands. Lower your elbows to the floor while keeping your right knee as close as you can to your right shoulder. Keep your back leg engaged and sink in a little bit more to feel the stretch.
Benefits: Releases and stretches hip muscle groups, quads and glutes. Feels especially good after a long bike ride or run.
How to do it: Get into plank position and then take your hands about a hand print back towards your feet. Push your hips up and point your tailbone to the sky. Lengthen your spine. Relax your shoulders way from your ears to create space in your upper back. Microbend the knees and try to touch your heels to the floor.
Benefits: Releases and stretches back, shoulders, calves, quads, hamstrings. Aligns spine and core. Good as a deep stretch and counter balance to any physical activity.
Hip joint mandala
How to do it: From a downward facing dog, lift your right leg up to the sky for a three-legged dog. Bend the knee and bring your heel as close as you can to your bum while pointing your knee to the sky. Push evenly on both hands to make sure your weight is equally distributed. For a deeper stretch, try to look at your right armpit. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Releases and stretches hip muscle groups, apart from muscle groups already loosened from downward facing dog. Feels especially good after a long bike ride or run.
How to do it: From a downward facing dog, go back into a plank position. Shift your body about an inch forward so that your shoulders are just slightly past your wrists. Lower your upper body while keeping your elbows tight next to your core, like you are doing a pushup. As your body brushes the floor, push your shoulders up and back so that you are in a mini back bend. Keep your legs strong with the thighs off the floor. Chin up and look slightly above eye level.
Benefits: Mini backbend to release tension from back and shoulders from swimming. Stretches hamstrings and glutes.