Kristin McGee’s Favorite Cool Down Routine

I’m always shocked when someone gets up and leaves my yoga class early and misses out on sivasana (corpse pose). Final relaxation is the best part of any yoga class. Not only does final rest feel amazing, it truly has physiological benefits. Final rest is when the body soaks in the effects of the yoga postures and breathing; and it allows for the nervous system to completely relax. In sivasana, the body can be still and the mind lets go of anxiety and stress.
Final relaxation for yoga practice is like a cool down for a hard workout. I know many people want to skip the cool down or think it’s unnecessary; but that cooling down after a workout allows for a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure. Cooling down can help you avoid fainting and dizziness. If you cool down properly, you won’t be as sore the next few days and you’ll bounce back quicker for your next workout.
As a yoga teacher, my favorite elements to incorporate in a cool down are low-intensity, long held static stretches and gentle sun salutations or movements. Full body stretches allow the body to cool down and open up. When you incorporate breathing and yoga postures after a workout, you can help prevent muscle soreness. The postures feel good; and they help you end your workout on a positive note.
Downward Facing Dog
Start with downward facing dog to stretch and lengthen the entire body. Allow the hamstrings to open and the shoulders to release. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose and feel free to bend one knee at a time or sway your hips side to side. Hold for five to ten breaths.
Crescent Lunge
Step your right foot forward and lower your left knee to the floor. Lift your torso up and lengthen the arms to the ceiling. Keep your abdominals engaged and breathe for eight to ten breaths. Step back to downward dog and repeat on the opposite side.
Pigeon
Pigeon is my favorite hip opener and a great post workout stretch. From downward dog, step your right shin forward and parallel with the front of the mat. Lower your left leg to the floor and slide it back until your hips can settle to the ground. After eight to ten breaths, step back to downward dog and repeat on the opposite leg.
Janu Sirsasana (front and side)
After pigeon on the left side, swing your back leg around and open the left knee to the side placing the foot on the inside of the right upper thigh. Fold forward over the straight leg and hold for five to eight breaths. Come up and switch sides.
Half Wheel
After Janu Sirsasana on both sides, roll down on to your back. Place both feet flat on the mat hip width apart and lift your hips up. Lace your palms under your back and puff your chest to your chin. Half wheel is a wonderful way to open up the shoulders and bring more breath in to your body. You will also stretch the hip flexors and quads, lower back and abdominals. Stay for at least ten breaths before lowering down.
Final Relaxation
It makes so much sense to end any workout with a brief rest. After you’ve stretched and allowed your heart rate to lower and your body heat to come down, you can lie on your back and let go for a few minutes. Let your mind wander, let you body fully release and reap the benefits of your workout. Ending on a positive, relaxing note, allows your body to truly recover and feel rested.
Cooling down is as important as the workout itself. Make sure to always warm up and cool down properly. One other component of your cool down is to refuel with a post workout snack and drink plenty of water.