An object in motion tends to stay in motion, a universal truth that is especially relevant for walkers. Once you've been bitten by the walking bug, it's difficult to stop. In addition to getting you from Point A to Point B (and C and D…), putting one foot in front of the other also helps prevent heart disease, strengthens bones and joints, boosts weight loss and contributes to greater mental wellness, among other benefits.|
Even if walking is your go-to workout, it's always a good idea to mix up your movements. When you do the same activity day in and day out, you run the risk of getting burned out or suffering from overuse injuries, which is why cross-training is so important. If you're sometimes bothered by sore feet, tired legs or an aching back after walking, you might want to consider adding some yoga-based stretches to your daily routine.
Yoga instructor Irena Miller is a big proponent of yoga as a wellness tool for walkers. "A few simple yoga poses can help you avoid a sore back, shin splints, plantar fasciitis and fatigued legs, all while boosting your stamina, decreasing muscle tension, improving your balance and strengthening your core," she says. Walkers may also notice greater cardiovascular endurance after adding yoga to their repertoire.
Stretch Your Way to Walking Wellness
Miller shared some of her favorite yoga poses to help SparkPeople walkers achieve greater balance, strength and relaxation.
How It's Done: Stand with your feet hip distance apart and line up the feet to be parallel from the center of your ankle out to the second toe. Lift one heel at a time, pressing the ball of the foot into the floor while keeping the foot vertical (avoid rolling to the pinky toe side). Push to a point, then lift the foot. Repeat five times on each side and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: When you lose awareness and sensitivity in your feet, it's harder to keep your balance. This pose will help you find your footing with more ease, making you less likely to trip. Mountain pose also helps to prevent shin splints and strengthens the ankles.
How It's Done: From mountain pose, bend your knees and shift your inner thighs back like you're about to sit in a chair. Bring your hands to the widest part of your outer shins, just beneath your knees. Lift and spread your toes, feel your outer shin muscles flex. Press your hands against the shins, hugging them toward one another. Resist letting the knees come together and press the inner thighs away from one another. Relax your toes. Bring your hands to your hips, lift your shoulders and return to a standing position.
How It Helps Walkers: Two words: healthy knees! The skier pose helps to strengthen your outer shins and keeps your knees strong.
How It's Done: From mountain pose, move into a forward bend and step your right leg back. Bring your hands in line with your front foot. Spread your right toes and activate your outer shin as if your hand were still pressing against it. Square your hips to the front of your mat. Lift your right inner thigh an inch higher. Bend your left leg to 90 degrees, keeping your knee directly in line with your ankle. Extend from the core of your belly to the crown of your head and back to your right foot. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: This stretch helps to alleviate tension in the lower back and relieves tight thigh muscles.
How It's Done: From the high lunge position, lower the right knee to the floor. Hug your thighs toward one another. Bring the left hip forward and the right hip back. As the right thigh resists the low lunge, allow the pelvis to come forward. Root through the right heel and extend up from the belly to the fingertips while relaxing the shoulder blades down the back. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: Release lower back discomfort and boost your energy by adding this stretch to your routine.
Low Lunge with Side Body Stretch
How It's Done: Start in the low lunge position with the right leg back. Use your left hand to hold onto your right wrist. Lean to the left, lengthening the body from hips to fingertips. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: The low lunge with side stretch helps walkers breathe easier and relieves tightness in the muscles along the side of the body.
Crescent High Lunge
How It's Done: From the high lunge position with the right leg back, root firmly through the mound of the left big toe. Hug your thighs toward one another, keeping hips square. Sweep your arms up alongside your ears. Lengthen from the belly out to the left knee and back to the right foot. From the hips, reach up to sky while relaxing your shoulder blades. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: The crescent lunge helps walkers to build leg strength and reduce fatigue for longer walks.
How It's Done: Starting in a wide stance, extend your arms to a "T" and line your feet up with your wrists. Turn your left foot in an inch before turning your right leg open, lining up your right foot so your toes point to the top of your mat. Bend your right leg to 90 degrees and root the four corners of your feet into the floor, then draw the legs toward one another. Extend from your hips out through your right knee and down to the outer edge of your left foot. Look over your right fingertips. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: Warrior II is great for opening up tight hips and strengthening the muscles around the knee.
Reclining Warrior II
How It's Done: Starting in warrior II, turn your right palm to the sky. Slide your left hand down the back of your left leg (be careful not to press on your knee). Stand strong through the back leg and bend your front leg deeply. Look up to the sky. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: Use this stretch to help improve your posture and release tight hip flexors.
How It's Done: Starting from the crescent high lunge, swivel your back foot flat. If your hips are very tight, widen your front foot a few inches toward the edge of your mat. Square your hips to the front of you mat. Bend the front leg 90 degrees and reach both arms to the sky.
How It Helps Walkers: Improve balance and build leg strength with this deep hip opener.
Mountain Pose with Jelly Roll
How It's Done: Roll up your yoga mat or a firm blanket. Place the balls of your feet onto the rolled up blanket (the jelly roll). If you feel unsteady, unroll your blanket to reduce the height. You should feel a nice stretch in your calves as you hold for five to 10 breaths.
How It Helps Walkers: This pose helps to prevent shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
Forward Bend with Jelly Roll
How It's Done: From mountain pose with the jelly roll beneath your feet, hinge at the hips and place your hands on a chair or countertop. If you feel any stress in your back, bend your knees. Keep the feet parallel and at hip-distance width. Root down through the balls of your feet and hold for five to 10 breaths.
How It Helps Walkers: This forward bend is great for improving your stride and opening your hamstrings and calves.
How It's Done: For the greatest benefit, your heels need to be rooted into something, rather than suspended in the air. Using your rolled-up blanket beneath your heels, bend your legs and move your bottom back, similar to the skier pose. Slowly lower your hips and settle your arms between your legs. Press your arms and legs against each other and extend from the belly up through the crown of your head. Hold for five to 10 breaths. If you have trouble getting this low, squat as low as you comfortably can, as if you are sitting back into a chair.
How It Helps Walkers: Create flexibility in your ankles, release tight calves, strengthen your legs and tone your core with this beneficial pose.
Thunderbolt with Toes Curled Under
How It's Done: Start from tabletop position with your knees beneath the hips and hands on the mat directly beneath the shoulders. With your toes curled under, slowly walk your hands back toward your knees. You can keep your hands on the floor, then slowly walk them up your legs. When your toes are ready, sit up with a straight spine. Try to hold for five to 10 breaths.
How It Helps Walkers: Thunderbolt helps to open up tight thighs, keeps knees healthy and creates flexibility in the feet and ankles.
How It's Done: Lying on your belly, point your feet behind you with the legs no wider than hip distance apart. Press the tops of your feet onto the floor and scoop your tailbone. Interlace your fingers behind your back (or hold onto a belt if your shoulders are too tight to reach your fingers). Lengthening from the hips to the underarms, draw the shoulder blades toward one another while lifting the chest and head away from the ground. Hold for five breaths.
How It Helps Walkers: This pose helps to improve your posture and strengthens the back. It's great for relieving tension in the shoulders and opening up the chest.
How It's Done: Lying on your belly, bring your left arm parallel to the top of your mat. Bend your right leg and reach your right hand back for your foot. Press the foot and hand into one another as you draw the heel toward the outer right hip. Keep your chest square to the floor or top of your mat. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: Use the half-frog to release lower back tension and discomfort, and to open up tight shoulders.
How It's Done: From tabletop position (knees beneath the hips and hands beneath the shoulders), soften the space between your shoulder blades, curl your toes under and lift your hips to the sky. Take the time to look at your hands and make sure that the creases of your wrist are parallel with the top of your sticky mat. Gently press your heels as close to the floor as you can comfortably hold for five to 10 breaths.
How It Helps Walkers: Downward-facing dog is great for opening tight calves, releasing tight hamstrings, strengthening your arms and calming the mind.
Eye of the Needle
How It's Done: Start by lying on your back with your legs bent. Place your right ankle over your left thigh. Draw the legs as a unit toward your chest and hold on behind your left leg. Spread your toes and reach out through the balls of your feet. Press your left leg into your hands, as you draw your legs in toward your chest. Hold for five to 10 breaths and then switch sides.
How It Helps Walkers: This pose helps to open up tight outer hips.
Legs Up the Chair
How It's Done: Grab a chair and place your calves on the seat. Rest with your arms alongside your body and hold for two to five minutes.
How It Helps Walkers: This stretch helps to alleviate fatigued legs and reduces water retention in legs and swollen ankles. It's also an opportunity for deep rest and peacefulness.
Irena Miller teaches bite-sized yoga to curious, intuitive people who want to feel at peace in their body and in the world. Her online yoga adventures target how yoga can strengthen the core, release shoulder tension, open tight hips and alleviate sore backs.