Written by Sandy Braz | Photography by Paul Buceta

It wasn’t that long ago that weight lifting and yoga seemed to have nothing in common; while yogis aim to lengthen and stretch their muscles, weightlifters are all about contracting and building them. But more recently, weightlifters have been turning to yoga as a compliment to their training, not just to help chill out their minds, but as a way to improve overall body conditioning and health. But why choose yoga? Traditional stretches typically seen around the gym can help reduce post-workout soreness, but it’s the fluidity of movement in yoga and the range of postures (asanas) that target tighter areas more effectively, loosening joints and increasing flexibility, especially after a heavy lifting session.

Some of the most used areas of a weightlifter’s body are hips (think movements like squats and jumps) and back (the full area from just above the hips to just below the underarm). This routine targets those tight, overused areas, and is simple enough for a newcomer, while at the same time challenging enough for the seasoned yogi. It’s the yoga routine that will change your lifting-life for the better; finally, the two worlds have collided.

What you’ll need: A yoga mat and a block

Tip: Bare feet are always best.

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How to: Try not to rush through the routine. Since it’s tailored to help release tension and lengthen muscles, it’s important to take your time and breathe deeply. Go through the entire thing at least once, holding each pose for 10-20 seconds, depending on your flexibility and needs.

Low Lunge

Lizard Low-Lunge

Set up: With a block on the floor in front of you, step forward with your left foot and lower into a low lunge. Drop your right knee to the ground and keep your toes curled under.

Action: Walk the left foot out to the side a few inches and begin to lower your forearms down on to the block so that your body is as close to the ground as possible. Slowly raise your right knee off the ground to deepen the stretch. Hold, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Tip: To advance this move, get rid of the block and bring your forearms to the ground.

Bound Ankle Pose

Bound Ankle Pose

Set up: From a seated position, bend your knees to bring the soles of your feet together; pull your heels close to your body, and allow your knees to flare open naturally, creating a diamond shape with your legs.

Action: Keep your spine straight and pull your shoulders back as you lean forward into the stretch, leading with your chest.

Tip: Relax your inner thighs as much as possible before leaning into the stretch.

Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

Set up: Get into Downward Dog, with your palms and feet pressing into the ground and your hips raised, keeping a neutral spine. Lift your right leg into the air until it is in line with your body.

Action: Bring your raised leg down, bending your knee and placing it on the mat so your shin is between your hands; line up your hips parallel to each other, pressing your left hip toward the floor. Place your arms by your side and gently lean forward to deepen the stretch. Reverse the motion back into Downward Dog and repeat on the other side.

Fire Log Pose

Fire Log Pose

Set up: Sit on the floor with a straight spine. Place your left leg out in front of you and bend at the knee until your shin is in a straight line and parallel with your body.

Action: Stack your right leg on top of the left and line up your right ankle to your left knee and the right knee to the left ankle. Hold, then reverse the motion and repeat on the other side.

Tip: This is a deep stretch for the hips. Ease into it slowly, breathing deeply.

Goddess Pose

Goddess Pose

Set up: From standing, step your feet out wide, turning the toes outward; bend your knees so they line up with your ankles, and tuck your tailbone in to activate your core. Place your hands together at your chest.

Action: Slowly lower yourself down an inch or two and hold; you’ll feel a stretch through your hips.

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Set up: Sit on the floor and extend both legs out in front of you. Keep your left leg straight and bend and pull your right leg into your body. Line up your right heel about two inches away from your left thigh.

Action: Sit up very tall and avoid sinking in the lower back. Wrap your left arm around the right leg to create a twist. Move your left shoulder forward as you move the right shoulder back. Reverse the motion and repeat on the other side.

This pose stretches out the hips, lower back, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck.