Stretching is important at any age, with any lifestyle and under any circumstance.
I’m not stretching the truth though, when I say that for teens whose sports schedules have been interrupted, staying limber is important to keep them nimbler. In addition, loosening the muscles can really give a leg up when it comes to overall injury prevention and athletic performance in any athletic situation.
While stretching from head to toe is important, most outdoor activities that teens can safely participate in currently, like running, hiking, biking and basketball in the driveway, require hip and leg flexibility to maintain a strong, yet malleable foundation.
Further, continuing to condition for a solid base will provide the stability and springiness necessary to support the often rigorous and opposing movements occurring in upper body when practice and play schedules return to normal.
Set aside time daily to try this five-minute leg limbering sequence. All you need is a yoga mat and two blocks.
Step feet hips width distance apart. Place blocks to either sides of the feet at their tallest setting. Bring hands to prayer at the heart. Inhaling, reach arms overhead and lead with the sternum as you hinge at your hips, folding forward over the legs. Place both hands on locks and take three to five rounds of breath, with each inhalation, lengthening the spine and with each exhalation coming to a deeper fold.
On an inhale, come up to standing with arms overhead and exhale into a forward bend once again, this time taking the blocks down to the next lowest setting. Take three to five rounds of breath, breathing in for length and breathing out to build flexibility.
Repeat these steps twice more, first with the blocks on their lowest setting and, if possible, a final time without the assistance of blocks.
Inhale arms overhead and exhale folding forward and down, placing hands on the blocks at their highest setting once more. Shifting the weight into the RIGHT foot, lift the LEFT leg up and back to hip height and step it to the back of the mat coming into a low lunge with the LEFT knee down. Slowly rock forward until you feel a productive stretch in the LEFT hip flexor, settling in for three to five breaths. Then, move the hips back, straightening the front knee. Bring the toes toward the face at the seat hovers above the back heel, pausing for three to five breaths. Finally, slowly rock forward and back three times, inhaling as you come forward and exhaling as you move back. On a fourth rock forward, shift the weight into the RIGHT foot once more coming back into a forward fold.
Repeat on LEFT side.
To release, bend both knees and bring the seat to heels, gazing forward on an inhale. Exhaling, lower the heels and forward fold for a final time. Let the next inhale bring you standing, arms overhead and then bring hands into heart center.
Stretching, like any other exercise, gets easier with practice. So, if these stretches seemed challenging the first few times you’ve tried them - loosen up! Patience and practice will improve your performance. It takes only 5 minutes daily to stretch in order to have flexible legs to stand on.
Antonia Kellner is a yoga instructor at Privé-Swiss Fitness, an award-winning, upscale, boutique fitness studio, located at 1587 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, 757 Boston Post Road, Madison and 57 Main Street, Ivoryton (coming soon); phone: 860-391-8735; website: www.priveswissfitness.com.