Recently, I had a piano tuner come out to give my piano a much needed tune-up. I also teach music lessons in a store that does repairs, so I constantly see people in and out with various instruments to get pads changed or a sticky key fixed. As a singer and a dancer, I think of my body as my instrument. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly outsource that kind of regular maintenance. Sure, once a year I’ll splurge on a massage, but I use my body way too much to rely solely on a once a year thing.
When I was still young and stupid, I treated my body carelessly without thinking about the implications. Then, I started having soreness in my knee which I later discovered was being caused by tight hamstrings and hips. Much like a beautiful woman got me started dancing, another beautiful woman got me started with yoga. My knees are much better now, and better than that, I am much more conscious about my body and its regular maintenance and upkeep.
Here are a few of my favorite poses for a quick tune up:
- Hero Pose – This pose can be tough on the knees for those who are inexperienced, but there are a lot of ways to modify it. If you have trouble with it, find a good yoga teacher and ask them to help you out. Its a great way to compress and squeeze the hamstrings. It also minimizes the circulation to the legs so that when you come out of the pose the legs get fresh blood and oxygen.
- Legs-Up-the-Wall – In this variation, they place a lot of support under the lower back/hips which creates a nice opening in the chest. Again, this helps the blood drain from the legs to circulate fresh blood into the legs. In a pinch, I’ll use this after hero’s pose to quickly refresh my legs. I can usually stay fresh for another few hours at dance weekends with this trick.
- Runners Lunge – I like this pose because it uses the large muscles of the legs, particularly the quadriceps, and it can help me loosen up my hip flexors. Its also easy to control the intensity as the more weight I take into my fingertips, the easier it becomes. If I shift that weight out of the fingertips and into the legs, I feel a much more intense stretch/muscle action. I usually start pretty easy, and work deeper into the pose.
- Pyramid Pose – This is the pose that I use most frequently to stretch my hamstrings. I can also get a great stretch in the calf of the back leg. This pose is a favorite, but I also think of it as my arch-nemesis as its the pose I often struggle with the most.
- Extended Side Angle Pose – If the runners lunge provides an introduction to my hip flexors, this pose is an extended conversation. I also really enjoy the feeling of elongation through the body.
- Pidgeon Pose – Like Hero pose, pidgeon can often be a great challenge, and there are lots of ways to modify it. Find someone knowledgable to help you if it doesn’t feel comfortable. As for the benefits, this hits the gluts like no other.