Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What is a Yoga Cooldown, and do you Really Need ?

Many of the soothing asanas (postures) we do in the last 10 minutes of yoga are already considered a cool-down because you’re probably already stretching on the floor with hip openers and other floor work.  stretching. “After every workout, start holding poses longer and gradually decrease intensity,” recommended certified yoga instructor Johnny Anzalone, who teaches yoga at Equinox and Sports Club/LA in New York City.

Some yoga instructors believe the most effective cool-down portion of class should assimilate inversions (going upside-down in Headstand or Shoulderstand, for instance) to reverse the flow of blood leading to your head and heart – improve mental concentration and energy.

An efficient cool-down slows your pace and rhythm. It can feature chanting or meditation, core work and deeper flexibility of the spine, back, legs and hips,” said Anzalone, a professor of dance and musical theater at NY University.

Her are Anzalone’s favorite cool-down stretches; hold each side for 60 seconds or more:

1.  Thread the Needle (relaxes hips, buttocks, legs, lower back)
Lie back and cross right ankle above left knee, and straighten left leg. Grasp left hamstrings with both hands and draw left knee toward chest, holding the back of the left thigh with both hands. Hold the stretch, and circle ankles in both directions and point/flex the feet. Switch sides, and repeat.

2. Spinal Twist (targets abs, back, core, shoulders, waistline)
Lie back and bend both knees to the right, lying with legs together and hips stacked on the floor. Use your right hand on the top leg to deepen the stretch and breathe deeply, stretching the left arm out.  Return to center and switch sides, bringing knees to the left side and repeat the stretch to the right shoulder.

Other examples of cool-down asanas on the floor are Knees-into-Chest stretch, gentle twists from a seated position and finally, Corpse Pose, or Savasana. In this final pose, lie back and relax with your eyes closed for several minutes to cultivate calmness and transition into the real world.

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