As a personal trainer, kickboxing instructor, and fitness model, I spend an awful lot of time moving my body in all planes of motion. On any given day, I may be found training a client, bootcamp-style in Central Park in the morning, then running to a casting where I’m given ten seconds to show off my impressive tricks (i.e. jumping right into a dancer’s pose without a proper warm-up) in the afternoon, then teaching a kickboxing class at 5 p.m., and finally ending the evening weight-training a client or two. And that doesn’t even account for my own workouts, which could be anything from a bootcamp to a 6 mile run, or as is the case more frequently these days, a nice, gentle, restorative yoga class.
This extremely active lifestyle has its benefits (for one, I adore my job and am never, ever bored), but it can also take a major toll on one’s body. When I first decided to devote my life to helping others achieve their fitness goals, I was not aware of the impact it would have on my own personal fitness. I’ve always been active, but this is next level, and at the end of each day, I would find myself exhausted, sore, and reaching for the Ibuprofen to help with the painful inflammation (usually in my lower back, hips, and shoulders). But as the days went by, I was becoming uncomfortable with this new pill-popping routine I’d established. I live a sober life, and really prefer to treat what ails my body holistically whenever possible. And so, I did what made the most sense to me as an informed fitness professional: I put down the Ibuprofen and turned to yoga to ease my sore, overworked muscles. Since adopting this “pain replacement,” I’ve had very little pain, my energy levels throughout the day have improved, and I sleep more peacefully at night. Here are my go-to poses to both soothe and recharge my body & soul:
Downward dog (Adho Muka Svanasana) This simple asana is so effective, requires no prior stretching, and has the wonderful regenerative benefit of all inversions: bringing blood flow, and thus, oxygen, to the brain. It also relieves tightness in my upper back and calves, which are problematic areas for me.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) This one is also super easy, and very effective at releasing tension in the hamstrings and hip flexors, which tend to be chronically tight when one spends a lot of time demonstrating jump squats and kettle bell swings! I drop into uttanasana at least three times a day, holding for up to two to three minutes
Camel Pose (Ustrasana) I like to do a few cobras and warm up a bit before going into camel. This is a nice follow-up to the standing forward bend as it opens up the shoulders, stretches the quads, the psoas muscles, and also gives me a big energy boost.
Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana) O.M.G. If I had the time, I would stay in pigeon pose for hours, and my hip flexors would be very, very happy. This is the one that completely suppresses the urge to reach for the ibuprofen. Pigeon gets to the deepest part of the hip flexor, lengthening it and releasing tension. Ahhhhh….
So, that’s it. These four simple poses have not only helped me squash the need for anti-inflammatories, but they’ve also helped lengthen my chronically-tight muscles, providing a sustainable routine that I can do daily, and that provides renewed energy to carry me through the rest of my hectic day. And you certainly don’t need to be a trainer or fitness pro to reap these benefits. These poses are super effective for anyone who spends the majority of their day sitting at a desk or standing upright (both of which can also cause tightness and pain in the lower back and hip flexors). So the next time you think about popping a pill to ease your pain, maybe try these asanas instead. The longterm benefits of yoga greatly outweigh the short-lasting effects of over-the-counter pain relievers.