Yoga for Kayaking: Warm-up Flow Sequence


This is one of my favorite yoga flow sequences. It’s quick, beginner friendly and it stretches a lot of the key muscles that get sore from kayaking and from sitting in a kayak. I’ve placed the photo sequence first and then the written instructions associated with each photo below. Remember that attention to the rhythm of your breath is important. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose throughout the sequence. The photos were taken by Paul Villecourt. Enjoy!

Photo 1: Begin standing with your feet together or slightly apart facing forward at the front of your mat. If your feet are together the big toes should be touching and there should be space between the heels. Arms are down at your side. Upper inner thighs are rotating toward one another, the front of the thighs are pressing back while the tailbone is tucked slightly toward the ground. Chest is lifted, spine is extended and head and neck feel balanced and relaxed. Take a few breaths to get comfortable breathing in and out through the nose.

Photo 2: Inhale, sweep the arms up stretching through the fingertips.

Photo 3: Palms come together, gaze is up toward the thumbs, stretching up toward the sky.

Photo 4 and 5: Exhale as you ‘swan dive’ stretching through the fingertips into a forward fold. If you can reach the ground, great, if you can’t then place your hands on your thighs for support. Don’t let your arms hang down, support yourself.

Photo 6: Inhale lift the head and the chest keeping a straight back.

Photo 7: Exhale and step the left foot back into a wide stance, bring the left knee to the floor and point the left toes so that the top of your left foot is flat on the mat. This is a lunge position. You’ll want to make sure that your right foot is far enough forward so that as you shift your weight toward the front that your knee doesn’t pass your foot. You want your right knee to be directly above your right foot. You also want to ensure that you’re getting a stretch through your left quad and the front of the left hip. To do this your left leg must be at an angle. If it’s straight then you need to bring your right foot forward so that you can shift your weight forward and feel the stretch.

Photo 8: Side view of the lunge — notice that the back leg is tilted forward. Hold the lunge for 5 deep and easy breaths.

Photo 9: Curl the left toes under and step your right foot back into Plank position. In this position you’re attempting to create a straight line with your body. To do this engaging the core is key. This pose is a great core strengthener.

Photo 10: Side view of plank position.

Photo 11: Lower yourself to the mat while maintaining proper alignment — don’t let your lower back sink down first — keep a strong core. If this is too difficult then bring your knees to the mat first and lower yourself to the mat.

Photo 12 and 13: Clasp your hands behind your back and inhale as you straighten your arms as much as possible drawing the shoulders back and lifting your chest off the mat. Hold for 5 deep and easy breaths. Exhale to release the pose

Photo 14: Place your hands under your shoulders, curl the toes under and inhale as you lift yourself up to all fours.

Photo 15: Exhale, keep your toes curled under and press your hips back toward your ankles bringing the crown of your head toward the mat — Child’s Pose with the toes curled under. Hold for 5 deep and easy breaths. This is a great stretch for the feet and the toes. After you’ve held Child’s Pose with the toes curled under you can come back up to all fours on an inhale, exhale and press back into Child’s Pose with your feet pointed (the tops of your feet will be flat on the mat) for a deeper back stretch. Hold for 5 breaths.

Photo 16: Inhale as you come up to all fours, curl the toes under and exhale as you press your hips back into Downward Dog. In Downward Dog your fingers are spread and you’re pressing your index finger into the mat. Your shoulders are rotated away from your ears and up your back with your shoulder blades squeezing toward one another. Your arms and back are straight and your hips are pressing back. Your heels are dropping gently toward the mat. Keep your upper inner thighs rotating toward one another. Relax the head and the face and hold the pose for 5 deep and easy breaths.

Photo 17: Side view of Downward Dog pose.

Photo 18: Inhale as you look forward and step your left foot forward into a lunge on the other side. Your right knee will be on the mat and your right toes will be pointed with the top of your right foot on the mat. Shift your hips down and forward to get a good stretch in your right quad and the front of your right hip. Hold for 5 breaths.

Photo 19: Inhale as you look forward and step your right foot forward. Exhale into a forward fold.

Photo 20: Inhale as you sweep your arms up, stretching through the fingertips. Palms come together as you gaze up to your thumbs, stretching up to the sky.

Photo 21: Exhale and release your arms to yours sides, stretching through the fingertips.

You can hold any of these poses for longer if you like and you can repeat this sequence several times going deeper into the poses. You can also substitute in other poses that flow well and different variations of lunges. If you’re hamstrings are feeling tight you can start out the sequence with two or three forward folds before going into the lunges. Remember to be gentle with yourself and to bring you attention back to your breath when your mind starts to wander.