We all know the importance of the Cooling Down period after working out or competing. It is equally and just as important as the warm up. We, however, often let distractions get in the way of affording our bodies the opportunity to begin the regeneration process which prepares us for our next session on or off the court.
Creating your cool down program can be based on some, or all, of the movements below. Ultimately you want to create a program that focuses on your individual body needs to open areas of tightness, and use techniques that focus on areas that are prone to injury.
Purpose of Post Court/Training Cool Down
returns the body temperature, respiration and heart rate back to normal in a gradual manner
can help increase flexibility
can speed waste removal from the blood to help prevent muscle soreness
Adding yoga, in addition to an active cool down, gives you additional benefits that can give you the performance advantage in your match.
allows you to recover quicker from competition and training
reduces the risk of injury
prepares you for your next day’s training event which can be a performance advantage
These movements, courtesy of The Institute of Yoga Sports Science®, can be completed in about 5-7 minutes post competition or practice. In the cool down phase of your routine, focus on slowing your breath down, giving your body a chance to slow down and return to normal. Begin your cool down phase with a slow walk to begin an active recovery before taking yourself to the ground to complete the movements below. I recommend completing this sequence in its order but you can also use any movement by itself.
There is no set time or number of reps to be completed. I have provided a base number of reps; however, tune into your body and discover what it needs on any given day. Sometimes it is will require time in a static hold or reps in a movement and sometimes it is less.
1. Forward Hang
Starting Position: Stand with your feet inner hip width apart, toes straight. Bend your knees slightly. Folding forward from your hips, let your torso hang with arms dangling towards your feet. If this is uncomfortable, or you have any discomfort in your lower back, place your hands on your thighs for support
Movement: Gently bend your knees which will allow the hamstrings to release a bit. Let your torso sway side to side. You can play with this movement, bending one knee at a time or circling the torso around. Let your head hang to release any tension in your neck.
Tip: Take all movements slowly and notice where you are holding tension in your body. With your knees bent, slowly roll yourself up to a standing position. Take your time to let your head come back to a neutral position to prevent dizziness.
2. Drop Knee Twist
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground close to your bottom. Extend your arms on the floor in a T like position with palms facing up.
Movement: Exhale - drop both knees to the right and gently roll your chin towards your left collar bone. Inhale - lift the knees back to starting position. Exhale - drop both knees to the left and gently roll your chin towards the right collar bone. Repeat 5-7 times in both directions.
Tip: Link the movement with your inhale and exhale. You may just need to go very slowly in the beginning to be able to practice.
3. Square Arms Circling
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Extend your arms toward the sky and place your hands on the outside of your elbows creating a square shape with your arms.
Movement: Exhale - drop right elbow towards the ground bringing left arm across chest. Inhale- begin to circle arms over head. Exhale - bring left elbow to ground on left side of body. Inhale - back to starting position. Repeat 5-7 times in each direction.
Tip: Be mindful of your range of motion as you circle your arms overhead, using your breath to guide you. Movement should be smooth.
4. Hamstring Stretch w/Theraband
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your left knee bent and foot on the floor. Place the Theraband around the bottom of your right foot and extend your leg, foot towards the ceiling.
Movement: Begin to move your right leg in small circular motions, inhaling and exhaling through the movement. Bring your right leg to a static hold; flexing your foot - toes towards your shin. As you feel the back of the leg (hamstring) relax, work towards extending the leg to at least a 90 degree angle from the floor. Complete 3 sets of 30-60 second holds on each leg.
Tip: Be mindful of how your leg feels in the extended position. If it is very tight and uncomfortable, slightly bend the knee to protect the hamstring.
Transition - Knees to chest letting the hips and legs release. Roll onto your hands and knees.
5. Figure 4 (Lying Pigeon)
Starting Position: Lie on your back with your right knee bent and your left ankle placed on right knee. Right knee opens out to the left creating the shape of a figure 4 with your legs. Inhale - lift your right knee off the floor and wrap your hands around the back on your thigh. Exhale. Inhale - draw right knee slowly in towards your chest.
Movement: Inhale - lift your right knee off the floor and wrap your hands around the back on your thigh. Exhale. Inhale - draw right knee slowly in towards your chest. Hold here for 3 breaths. For advancing the technique, Exhale - extend leg towards sky and hold for 3 breaths. Repeat 3 times on each leg
Tip: Take this movement slowly and ease into the movements being mindful of the tightness in your hips, especially after being on the court.
6. Baby Dolphin
Starting Position: Kneel with your hands on the ground below your shoulders.
Movement: Exhale - sit back on your heals with your chest resting on your thighs and your forehead on the floor and arms extended. Elbows on the floor. Inhale - lift your forearms and reach your hands towards your upper back as you draw your shoulder blades towards your waistline. Hold for 3-5 deep breathes
Tip: This can sometimes be a confining position. Breathe slowly and deeply to get the most of this pose.
7. Child’s Pose
Starting Position: Kneel with your feet together and knees wide apart.
Movement: Exhale - sit your rear end back towards your heels and let your chest rest on your thighs. Extend your arms along the ground in front of you and let your head rest on the floor.
Tip: If your knees are uncomfortable, roll a towel up and place it directly behind your knees before sitting back. If your head doesn’t reach the floor you can stack one fist on top of the other and let your forehead rest on the top fist.