Wellness Wednesday is back with some tips on the best yoga poses for cheerleaders! While cheerleaders are already super flexible, it’s not always easy to know where to start with yoga poses. We have put together some that we think you should start with at home to help you stretch to your best potential! The best part about yoga is that you can sport all of your cheerleading clothes & accessories while trying new things.

Note – do not try any new exercises before consulting your doctor, especially if you may be pregnant, or have any medical concerns. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. Drink plenty of water before, during and after any workout to stay hydrated.

1. Downward Facing Dog – also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana (Ah-doh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh) in Sanskrit – is an essential pose for building strength while stretching the entire body. This is considered a mild inversion, since it makes your heart higher than your head, but is less strenuous than other inversions. To do this pose, begin in plank pose and make sure to distribute your weight evenly across your palms. Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sit bones behind you. While in this pose, keep your legs straightened but do not lock your knees. Imagine your body in the shape of a capital “A.” Hold for five to one hundred breaths. To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your hands and knees.

2. Chaturanga (chah-tuur-ANGH-uh) is a powerful strength-builder and arm balance. Chaturanga strengthens and tones the wrists, arms, abdominal muscles, and the lower back. To do this pose, begin in plank pose. Keeping your elbows directly over your wrists, slowly lower your body to hover a few inches above the floor while keeping your back flat. Lift through your chest, making sure to keep your shoulders in line with your elbows. Try not to let your chest drop towards the floor. Fully engage your ab and leg muscles. If this pose is too challenging right now, come to your knees first and then lower your torso to hover an inch above the floor. This is called Half Chaturanga. Keep in mind to really hug your elbows into your ribcage and create a ninety degree angle with your arms. Hold for 10-30 seconds and then lower your body all the way to the mat and rest.

3. Upward Facing DogUrdhva Mukha Svanasana (OORD-vuh MOO-kuh shvan-AHS-uh-nuh) – is a back bending yoga posture that lengthens and strengthens the spine, torso, and arms. To begin, lie face down on the floor with your legs extended behind you with your feet resting on the mat. Place your hands on the floor alongside your body, with fingers pointed forward and elbows close to your ribcage. Inhale and press through your hands into the floor, straightening your arms and bringing your legs a few inches off the floor. Hold for up to thirty seconds. If you cannot lift your thighs off of the floor, practice Cobra Pose as an alternative.

You can also enter the pose by starting in plank, then lowering into Chaturanga. From Chaturanga, draw your body forward by pressing through your palms and rolling over your toes. Align your shoulders directly over your wrists and straighten your arms. End this series by moving into Downward Facing Dog. This series is often called a Chaturanga Flow, and is very common in many yoga classes. Try a few rounds at any time to gain a boost of energy and calm your mind.

4. Chair pose – in Sanskrit, Utkatasana (OOT-kuh-TAHS-uh-nuh) – is a standing yoga pose that tones the entire body, particularly the thighs! Similar to a squat, this can be more difficult for some because you are holding the pose much longer before releasing. For this pose, start in standing position. With your feet together, inhale and raise your arms above your head, similar to cheer touchdown position, but do not form your hands into fists. Exhale as you bend your knees with your thighs staying parallel to the floor. Bring your tailbone down to the floor, and drop your hips down even lower and lift through your heart. Hold for up to one up minute, and then exhale and return to standing position.

5. Tree Pose – Its Sanskrit name being Vrksasana (vrik-SHAH-suh-nuh) – is the best post to practice your balance and improve coordination. From standing position, start to shift your weight into either your left or right foot, while bending the opposite knee. Then use your hand to position your foot on your thigh. If this is too intense, you can practice this pose with your foot landing below the knee but do not rest your foot on your knee. Then you can position your hands in prayer in front of your chest, or practice moving your arms above your head. Hold for up to one minute, then repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.

Yoga is all about modification. Be sure to know your limits and to listen to your body. If you enjoyed these poses, consider doing a group class with your entire spirit squad! Let yoga inspire your cheer choreography or create new energy in your daily routine. For all things Spirit, look for your cheerleading uniforms and cheer wear at Spirit Accessories.