While doing passive stretches, it’s easy to just “check out” mentally. However, when it comes to yoga, the seemingly passive poses are just as critical to the practice as the flow. It’s important to stay present by focusing on what’s happening in the body moment to moment. Keep this philosophy in mind as you move through your pre- or post-game stretches. Remember, staying focused while you’re just stretching is the first step toward being able to keep your mind clear and sharp come game time. Try it: Pigeon for mental focus
Although this pose is more passive, the stretch created by the set up is anything but subtle. Pigeon stretches your hips — more specifically, a group of small, deep muscles (ever heard of the piriformis?) that rotate your thigh bone in your hip joint. Reminding these little guys how to lengthen and strengthen is critical for hip mobility, but while holding this often-intense stretch, you also have the opportunity soften those muscles by focusing on the feeling and coping with that discomfort rather than fleeing the scene!
- From all fours, bend your right knee and bring it toward your right wrist
- Keep your right foot flexed and lower your hip to the ground — if your hip doesn’t easily reach the ground, put something under that glute (such as a pillow, sweatshirt, or ball) so that you have something to rest on
- Straighten your left leg out behind you so that the leg extends straight back from the hip
- Slowly lower your torso toward the ground and try to find somewhere for your forehead to rest (try stacking your palms), allowing your shoulders and neck to relax
- Try to lengthen your spine as much as possible, pulling your ribs away from your hips.
- If your right knee hurts or feels uncomfortable, come onto your back and set up a figure 4 stretch, by putting both feet on the ground and crossing your right ankle over your left knee and pulling the legs toward you
- Hold for 10+ deep breaths, focusing on where you feel the stretch and relaxing into it, rather than tensing up to avoid it
- Switch sides
Deep stretches like this are also a great time to focus on your goals. Once you’re comfortable with pigeon, try adding on our intention meditation while you hold the pose.