My student Ann, is a triathlete. She usually does 5-6 races in a season in addition to training. This year, she decided to add marathons. Both the running and swimming kind. Wait, swimming? Yes, indeed. Like six miles. In a lake.
The three activities that are involved in triathlons: swimming, cycling and running all involve the same basic movement in the hip and leg. As well as the same muscle groups. Flexion, extension, flexion, extension, flexion, extension…over and over. Repetitive movement. The same muscles get used especially the quadriceps, calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) and hamstrings. I would say overused. And with overuse comes shortening, both of the muscles and surrounding soft tissues.
Ann’s calves and hamstrings are notoriously tight. I nicknamed the latter, recalcitrant muscle group, the “Dastardly Ann-strings” (via silent film villain Dastardly Dan). Since incorporating YTU work into our classes, there have been significant breakthroughs. A recent session was focused on hips and legs, working towards Paschimottanasana (Intense Western Stretch). Anyone with tight legs/hams/calves will tell you this is most likely NOT their favorite pose. Ann has never done this pose without a strap…ever. We warmed up with some traditional asana and then YTU poses: Asymmetrical Uttananasana and Parsvottanasana, Moon Rises and Leg Stretch #1 to name a few.
It was time for Paschi…cue doom and gloom music. Ann sat on her mat and put her strap on the floor next to her calf. She looked at me, rolled her eyes, then closed them and started her journey forward, hinging at the hips. Her fingers were searching for the belt so she opened her eyes to find it to discover, surprise!, her fingertips were past her feet. Actually, at the second joint of her fingers and she didn’t need the strap for the first time. Much joyful squealing ensued. “LOOK! I reached my feet! I can see my knees! I’ve never seen knees from this angle!” It was thrilling to be part of the discovery with her, to witness her joy in the experience of the “new normal” in calves and hams.
Here’s one of the poses that helped Ann: Asymmetrical Uttanasana, which you can also find on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for Hips video.
Read about the most important part of a yoga pose.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.