Do your participants think the strength and cardio sections are the only important aspects of step class? The cool-down can be just as important, if not more so. While there are infinite ways to cool the body down, why not try adding yoga moves for stretching, balance and stabilization? Begin cooling down with basic grapevines and step-touches within a smaller range of motion, but make the moves dynamic by adding personal flair. Then slowly transition into your body-mind experience. Here are some ideas:
- Roll the hips and shoulders as you move. This makes the movements more dance-oriented and can help dance-shy participants feel successful.
- Transition the double step of the grapevines into single-side steps and slides (low impact). Progress to wide-leg lunges, moving side to side.
- While lunging, start rolling the shoulders back and down, leading with the upper arms, then the elbows, then the full arms. Come to a standing position, and slowly begin to incorporate deep breathing exercises.
- While standing with legs slightly more than hip distance apart and hands on upper thighs, begin to roll down and up, rounding and stretching the back with cat/cow-inspired movements. Repeat several times.
- Inhale deeply through the nose while opening the arms overhead. While exhaling through the mouth, hinge at the hips and come into a forward bend with hands on the step. Invite students to keep their hands on their thighs at first to give them some assistance while stretching the hamstrings. Complete two or three deep breaths while leaning more into the stretch on every exhalation.
- Bring the left leg back into a lunge position. The lunge can be high with a straight leg or low with the knee on the floor. Hold both hands on the step through one cycle of breathing, inhale and lift the torso up. Place the hands on the front thigh for support at first, and then reach up to the ceiling in salutation yoga pose.
- From the lunge position, bring the other leg back into downward dog with both hands on the step. With deep breaths, slowly alternate heel presses to intensify the hamstring and calf stretches.
- From downward dog, ease the body down into plank. Hold for two or three cycles of deep breathing.
- Keeping the right leg back, bring the left leg forward into a lunge series on this side. Repeat the movements from hands on the step to salutation pose.
- Place both hands on the step and bring the legs together, knees slightly bent. Keep the hands on the front of the thighs and roll up to a standing position, focusing on pulling the bellybutton toward the spine in a modified cat stretch.
- In a standing position, take a deep breath and stand in neutral alignment (feet hip distance apart, abs tight, rib cage lifted, shoulders back and down). On the next breathing cycle, balance and bring one leg back into a standing quad stretch. Repeat on the opposite leg, being mindful of proper body mechanics and correct alignment of the hips, knees and ankles.
- Move into a combination figure-four stretch and chair pose. Hold the stretch while balancing, strengthening and breathing.
- Bring students into a full standing position. Take a deep breath and come into the “Namasté” salutation.
Debra Orringer, MS, is the manager of NASA’s Kennedy Space Centers Fitness Centers in Florida. She holds certifications from ACE, ACSM and AFAA and is a master trainer for Gliding™ and SpinPilates™.