Use a holistic approach to cool down participants and prepare them for the rest of the day.
As your class completes its final repetition, you look out at the 30 mounds of trembling muscle and think, “Should I let them leave like this?” Of course not! Your students would be exiting in worse condition than when they entered if you didn’t spend some quality time bringing down their heart rates and stretching their warm muscles. If participants leave before the hour is up, they leave with much more than they bargained for—shortened muscles, overstimulated sympathetic nervous systems and elevated blood pressure, breath and heart rates.
Now imagine them sitting in front of a computer for the next 8 hours or trying to wind down for a restful night’s sleep when they are in this heightened physiological state. The “walk-to-the-car” cool-down or a couple of sloppy static stretches won’t help students restore and rest their minds and bodies. It’s your responsibility to provide a complete cool-down. The one presented below adopts a holistic approach.
A holistic cool-down has several goals:
- Restore the length of connective tissues.
- Promote recovery and repair by taking participants into a parasympathetic state.
- Lower blood pressure, breath and heart rates to a resting state.
The word holistic doesn’t mean you’ll be burning incense or chanting mantras. It refers to using all the tools available from a variety of disciplines to give the most complete and effective experience. In this cool-down, we utilize three techniques: foam roller relaxation and release, static stretching and breathing.
Goal: Restore length of chest and hip muscles while “releasing” back.
- Lie with spine along foam roller (lengthwise), placing both feet on floor.
- Put soles of feet together in diamond shape, and position roller in middle of back. Arms are perpendicular to roller in “T” position.
- Slowly inhale through nose, completely filling belly and rib cage.
- Slowly exhale through nose, letting belly drop and expending all breath.
- 1. Perform 5–10 full, deep breaths.
- 2. Regress stretch by lying directly on floor.
- 3. Take “I”, “Y” or “A” arm position.
Goal: Increase spinal mobility and restore chest and hip tissue length.
- Lie on one side with shoulders, arms, hips and legs stacked. Rest head on foam roller.
- Inhale through nose as you trace top hand across arm and chest toward opposite shoulder. Hold and take a breath.
- Exhale slowly and return to starting position, lightly sliding hand across chest.
- 1. Perform 5–10 repetitions.
- 2. Alternate sides.
- 3. Progress by straightening top leg or closing eyes.
Goal: Restore hip tissue length, and calm nervous system.
- Sit on floor with front and back legs bent to 90 degrees. Rest hands on foam roller in front of you.
- Take deep breath and lengthen spine. Tilt pelvis, increasing curvature of lower back.
- Maintain curve in lower back while keeping chest and head up; move forward over front leg.
- 1. Perform 5–10 rib cage–expanding breaths.
- 2. Alternate sides.
- 3. Press front knee and ankle into ground for 5 seconds, exhale and move forward.