If you associate yoga with crunchy human pretzels and Cirque de Soleil, it’s time you got schooled. “Yoga can obviously help with flexibility and range of motion,” says Sage Rountree, a Raleigh, N.C.-based endurance sports coach, and author of Everyday Yoga. But it can also “help build strength, and foster recovery. Put together, the strength and flexibility will help to ward off injuries.”
Many of the sports injuries Rountree sees come from muscular imbalances. “Yoga poses,” she says, “can help fix these imbalances and make you more injury proof.”
Still, that doesn’t mean you should learn to put your legs behind your head—some stiffness is useful. “To be a good runner, you need stiffness in your hips for efficient energy transfer,” Rountree says. Therefore, the goal with yoga for athletes is to develop core strength, fluidity of motion. And to relax. “Just being still and breathing will help with recovery, and recovery is the secret to performance.”
With that in mind, she’s shared a quick, five-pose routine featuring a mix of stretching, strengthening, and chillaxing. For best results, do these poses in the order below three times a week, in your spare time. A measly 10 to 15 minutes is all you really need.
1. Warrior III
Benefits: Strengthens lower leg, hip, and core. Builds balance.
“This is a great warm up. Dip in and out like a drinking bird toy,” Rountree says. Do five dips on each leg, holding the last dip for five to 10 breaths. Watch a demonstration here.
2. Crescent Lunge
Benefits: Builds strength in the front leg, flexibility in the back leg.
Stand with your legs split, your front knee over the front ankle, and the ball of your back foot touching the ground. Pulse here five to 10 times. Find a comfortable stretch and hold for five to 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. Watch a demonstration here.
3. Bridge Pose
Benefits: Builds strength in glutes and hamstrings while stretching hip flexors, abs, and chest.
Hold the pose for three rounds of 10 breaths. Watch a demonstration here.
4. Cross-Legged Twist
Benefits: Stretches hips and chest, rotates spine.
Hold the pose for five to 15 breaths on each side. Watch a demonstration here.
5. Legs Up the Wall
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings and chest.
This is a passive pose. “Let go and be still. Don’t try to make things happen,” Rountree says. Hold this pose for as long as you like. Watch a demonstration here.