If you still haven’t hopped on board the yoga bandwagon, you could be missing out on a ton of benefits, not the least of which is that enviable yoga booty. And while that’s certainly a perk few would say no to, there’s so much more to it than just tight assets.
As a weekend warrior (and perhaps even a 6 a.m., lunchtime, or any-other-time warrior), you’ve probably fallen victim to DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) at some point. And if you don’t have a regular yoga practice and tend to skip out on your post-workout stretch, chances are your hard-worked muscles aren’t getting the TLC they need and deserve.
That’s where yoga comes in, with its laundry list of benefits to help keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. In fact, yoga’s extensive CV includes everything from mental to physical benefits, such as better flexibility, balance, and posture; greater muscle strength and tone; improved bone health and blood flow; prevention of cartilage and joint breakdown; reduced cortisol and chronic pain, along with enhanced athletic performance — and that’s just the Coles Notes version. Now enter SUP yoga — that’s “stand-up paddleboard” yoga, and yes, it’s a thing.
In fact, Lauren Abraham, our model for this flow and a certified SUP yoga instructor, is a big proponent of taking your practice onto the water. “It builds a deeper connection to nature while challenging your balance a hundred times more than you would on a yoga mat,” says Lauren. An avid surfer and snowboarder, Lauren says she’s seen a dramatic improvement in her athleticism thanks to her regular yoga practice. “I can pop up on my surfboard faster because my core is really strong, and I’ve been doing a lot of Warriors, so my legs are really powerful and my snowboarding is just so much more on point,” she says.
But wait — there’s more. After four ankle surgeries during the course of her professional snowboarding career, Lauren was left with crippling arthritis in her ankle. That’s when she took up yoga. “It changed and saved my life,” she says. “It actually started healing my body.” Lauren went from being unable to walk without a limp to walking and running pain-free. If that isn’t a testament to the restorative powers of yoga, we don’t know what is.
If you’re ready to dive in, our Weekend Warrior Flow, designed by Toronto-based certified yoga instructor and educator Cassandra Amaral, is a challenging exercise in balance for those warriors who like to push the pace — and even more so if you decide to take it onto the water. Of course, if you’re new to yoga, Lauren recommends getting comfortable with the poses on shore to avoid the risk of injury. Because this flow is designed to test your balance while engaging your core and legs and strengthening the knees, it’s great for those weekend warriors who love their squats and lunges, which tend to place a lot of stress on the knee joints and require core strength to keep you stable.
How To Get Your “Om” On
For a more vigorous practice, you’ll be holding each pose for three to five breaths, being mindful as you transition in and out of your poses in order to avoid injury, since many of them will call on your flexibility and range of motion. For a slower pace, beginners can hold the poses for longer to increase flexibility. Keep in mind that you may not be able to come into the full expression of the pose right away — and don’t worry, that’s completely okay. We’ve offered variations where possible, so gauge what’s comfortable for you and work at your own pace. Practise this flow up to three times a week if you’re training hard, or a minimum of once a week to stretch out your muscles, and you’ll soon be reaping heaps of benefits to keep you going strong in the gym, in the water, or wherever your practice takes you.
Targets: Spinal extensors, hamstrings, and muscles of the lower legs; lengthens upper lats and lower back.
Start by kneeling on your mat and widen your knees to about hip-width apart. Sit back toward your heels, then extend your arms overhead and place your hands flat on the floor. Hold here.
Tip: To make this pose more active, lift up onto your fingertips, lift your forearms away from the floor, and hold.
Targets: Abdominals and muscles in your arms; increases mobility of the vertebrae and releases tension in the spine.
Shift forward to come onto all fours, looking ahead and maintaining a flat back. As you inhale, round your spine, bringing your belly in and up, and your chin in toward your chest. As you exhale, push your chest down toward the ground, arching your lower back and letting your hips sink as you look up. Hold.
Tip: The key to this pose is stacking the joints, so make sure your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are over your knees.
Targets: Spinal extensors, psoas major, piriformis, hamstrings, adductor magnus, quads, glutes, soleus, and gastrocnemius; engages muscles around the knees and feet.
With your toes curled under and your back flat, lift your knees away from the floor and step or hop your legs forward toward your hands. Look forward, rising halfway with a flat back, with your fingertips touching the floor or resting on your shins. Release at the hips, allowing gravity to pull your upper body down. Keep your legs engaged as you let your head hang between your shoulders and reach your arms down toward the floor or rest them on your calves. Pause here.
Tip: If your hands don’t reach the floor, try using a block. You can also keep a slight bend in your knees to help come into the full fold.
Targets: Spinal extensors and flexors, abdominals, olbiques, serratus anterior, upper trapezius, deltoids, biceps, glutes, piriformis, adductors, hamstrings, and soleus; lengthens the pecs.
Hinge at the hips to rise from Standing Forward Fold, keeping your back flat and bringing your palms together in front of your heart. From here, send your left leg to the back of your mat, pivot your rear heel out 45 degrees, and sink into your right knee to come into Warrior I, keeping your hips square. As you extend your right arm over your right knee and your left parallel to the floor behind you, gaze over your fingertips and twist to the left, opening up into Warrior II; hold here.
Tip: As you sink into your lunge, make sure the front knee is stacked directly over the ankle and isn’t turned in or out.
Targets: Core and external hip rotators, including the piriformis.
From Warrior II, reach your left arm down to meet the back of your leg and gaze up as you extend from the lower back and bring your front arm overhead, with your palm open. Hold here. Slowly and carefully rise back up into Warrior II.
Tip: At the top of the pose, bring your shoulders back to open the chest.
Targets: Abdominals, obliques, and back; lengthens muscles around the knee, ankle joints, groin, hamstrings, and calves.
From Warrior II, straighten your front leg to come into Triangle and gaze at your front fingertips, keeping your arms in line with your shoulders. Hold this pose.
Tip: Maintain a neutral position with your head, making sure it doesn’t fall out of alignment.
Targets: Spinal extensors and flexors, serratus anterior, obliques, lats, biceps, deltoids, glutes, piriformis, hamstrings, and muscles around the knee and foot.
Bring your front hand down to meet the floor (or your shin if that’s more comfortable) as you extend your left arm overhead or parallel to the ground. Gaze up at your arm and hold here. To come out of this pose, rise back up into Triangle, pivot your back foot to face forward, and sink deep into your front knee to come back into Warrior II. Bring your hands together in front of your heart, step your back foot to the front of the mat, and come back to standing. Repeat Warrior through Extended Triangle on your opposite side.
Tip: As you bring your arm up, expand at the collarbone by bringing your shoulder blades down and back to open up the chest.
Targets: Spinal extensors, serratus anterior, deltoids, trapezius, biceps, abdominals, internal obliques, glutes, piriformis, quads, and hamstrings; lengthens rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major and minor, and rectus femoris.
From standing, shift your weight into your left leg and bend the knee of your right leg to bring your foot off the ground to meet your glutes. Sweep your right arm back to grab your right foot. Press your foot into your hand and hinge at the hips to lean forward, extending your left arm parallel to the floor in front of you for balance. Hold, repeat, then do the same on the opposite side.
Tip: To come into this pose, ground your foot and find your balance by shifting back and forth from your toes to your heels.
Targets: Gastrocnemius, quads, hamstrings, adductors, glutes, piriformis, iliacus, spinal extensors, hip flexors, and muscles around the feet.
Return to standing. Shift your weight onto your right leg. Lift your left leg off the ground and place your left foot on the inside of your right leg either above or below the knee, or by your ankle. Stretch your arms overhead and bring your palms together, or hold your hands in prayer in front of your heart. Hold, then repeat on your other side. Come back into Child’s Pose and hold for five to 10 minutes, or as long as you need to complete your practice.
Tip: Look at a fixed spot in front of you to help you maintain balance.