Why is it that all these “get you bikini ready for summer” tips always have to do with getting the perfect beach body or showing off your shoulders in that sexy summer dress? I think there's a whole lot more to summer than just focusing on your body image. Summer brings forth new energy, a zest for life and abundance of long-awaited outdoor physical activity.
Here are 10 yoga poses to get you ready for summer — a strong and sporty summer. Use these in your regular practice or as part of your daily stretching, to get you in tip top shape for softball with friends, frisbee on the lawn, a game of touch football, or even a day hike. These poses also help stretch areas that are commonly strained and susceptible to injury, so you can stay in the game and have your best season ever.
1. IT Band Stretch
This is a beautiful twisted forward bend, stretching the hamstrings, lower back and IT band (a thick band of fascia on the outside of the knee that extends from the outer pelvis.
From Mountain Pose (Tadasana) fold forwardand bend the knees as much as needed to lengthen the low back and place your hands on the ground. Inhale to a half lift, and plant the right hand just in front of the feet. Exhale and twist from the belly, bending through the right knee as you lift the left arm up toward the sky.
Take 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
2. Thread The Needle
This twist gets deep into areas of the shoulder that can get tense with overuse. Lower to all fours, then inhale to lift the right arm up and open through your chest. Exhale and thread the arm under and through the left shoulder, letting the shoulder and crown of the head rest to the ground. (Left side pictured)
Start to extend the right arm overhead, straightening through the elbow. Try to walk the left fingers toward the right upper corner of your yoga mat. Spin the chest toward the sky. For an even deeper variation, extend the left leg behind you.
Hold for 10 breaths and switch sides.
3. Camel Pose Variation
This pose opens the chest and shoulders, promotes balance and stretches the hip flexors and psoas.
Come into a lunge and drop the right knee to the ground. Inhale to lift the right arm up and circle it around to find the heel behind you. Extend the left arm up toward the sky. Push your hips forward as you let both shoulders turn upward.
Hold for 3-5 breaths and switch sides.
4. Pyramid Pose With Half Lift
Use this pose to stretch out your hamstrings. Frame your front foot with your fingertips and straighten through both legs. Take a half lift as you inhale, to find length in the lower back and extend your chest outward. Square your hips and press equally into both feet.
Hold for 3 breaths.
5. Pyramid Pose
Exhale and hinge at your waist to fold forward into the full execution of this pose. Let your forehead draw close to your knee and continue squaring off your hips.
6. Wide-Legged Forward Bend
This variation on Wide-Legged Forward Bend increases the flexibility in the hamstrings and adductors, while simultaneously stretching the shoulders.
From the previous pose, walk your hands toward center and parallel your feet, keeping your legs about 3-4 feet apart.
Pigeon toe the feet in slightly. Descend the tailbone and lightly engage the lower abdominals. Inhale interlace the fingers behind you. Pull the arms off the back, squeezing shoulder blades together.
Exhale fold all the way forward for 5 deep breaths.
7. Warrior II
Warrior II is great to cultivate focus and confidence. It also helps open the hips and strengthens the legs.
Inhale to open the arms out to the sides as you turn your front foot to face forward and your back heel in to 45 degrees. Exhale as you bend the front knee to stack over the ankle and look over the fingertips.
Lower the tailbone down and lift the heart toward the sky. Relax the shoulders away from the ears.
Breathe deeply for 3-5 breaths.
8. Extended Side Angle Pose
From Warrior II, exhale and bring the front forearm to the thigh or fingertips to the ground. Then reach the other arm along side the ear and extend the fingertips.
Draw the shoulder down and turn the chest up with your gaze toward the sky. Find the weight equally distributed in both feet.
Hold for 3-5 breaths.
9. Revolved Triangle Pose
From Extended Side Angle, lower the opposite hand to the ground and lift the other arm upward into a Revolved Side Angle. Then, straighten through both legs to come into Revolved Triangle.
Think about twisting from your navel to allow for a more natural opening in the chest. Let the gaze follow the floating hand and keep your weight distributed evenly under both feet.
Hold for 3-5 breaths and then go back to Camel Pose Variation, completing the sequence of poses that follow on the other side of your body.
10. Tree Pose
Once you've balanced both sides of the body with the previous poses, you can use tree pose to help open up your hips, cultivate balance and a sense of feeling grounded.
Shift your weight into one foot and lift the sole of the other foot to plant it above or below the knee. Press down into the ground to energetically pull up all the way through the crown of your head. Keep your gaze soft and bring your hands to your heart. Breathe deeply for 5 breaths and switch sides.
Finish the sequence with a Vinyasa and rest for a few moments in Child's Pose or Savasana.
Cover photo by Matt Walker, Gallery courtesy of the author