Tight hips are a common problem for our Western bodies. I am convince that the backs on our chairs and couches greatly contribute to our slouching posture which creates aching backs and rigid pelvises (or is that pelvi?). Anyway, this week we devote our time on the mat to opening up the hips from all angles, not just the typical "thread the needle" direction, although we will explore that as well!
Sit with Knees Below Hips
In order to create space for the vertebrae and reduce slouching, when sitting cross-legged be sure to use enough height under your sit bones that your knees are below the height of your hip bones. This should be much more comfortable than without the support.
Maha Sacral Mudra
Touch tips of thumbs and little fingers together, then touch the thumbs, little, and ring finger tips of both hands together; extend index and middle fingers, pointing fingers downward in front of lower abdomen.
Benefits: Activates breath in the pelvis, aids digestion and emotional processing
Practice Tips: Use to feel calm and grounded, also helps to process emotions
Thread the Needle
Lie on the back with the knees bent. Cross your right foot over the left knee and flex the right ankle.
Variation I: If you are very tight, gently press the upper inner thigh away from your belly.
Variation II: If you are a bit more flexible, draw the legs to the chest and clasp the hands behind the left thigh (right hand between legs, left hand on outside of left leg). Hold 10-20 breaths then release and change sides.
Therapeutics: Opens the outer hips and provides traction to the lower back.
Gentle Quad Stretch on Belly
Lie on belly with legs straight out behind you, toes pointed. Rest on forearms with hands clasped keeping head in line with the rest of the spine. As you inhale, bend the right knee lifting the right foot and turn the head to the left, exhale back to center. Inhale bend left knee lifting left foot and turn head to right, exhale return to center. Repeat 5-10 times per side
Contraindications: If the lower back is tender, just move the legs without turning the head.
Benefits: Stretches quadriceps and the connective tissue around the sacrum.
Block Supta Padangusthasana I & II
Part I: Lie on back with knees bent and feet on floor. Raise hips up and place block under sacrum. Bring right knee into chest and wrap strap around ball of foot. Keep left foot on floor with that knee bent as you extend the right leg so that the heel is aligned with the right sit bone. Relax head and shoulders into mat and hold for a minute or so
Part II: Take both ends of strap in left hand and keeping the right leg straight move the right leg to the left 6-8 inches to stretch outer thigh. Hold for a minute or so then relax knee into chest and return right foot to the floor. Repeat to other side
Benefits: Stretches back and outside of hip
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose or Queen's Pose)
Sit in front of two long-fold blankets or a bolster parallel to mat. Place soles of feet together and let knees move apart resting on blocks or bolster. Place looped strap around back of pelvis between thighs and over outside edge of feet to help lengthen low back. Lie back over bolster and place blanket under head. Rest 5-15 minutes, then release
Therapeutics: Relaxes floor of pelvis, opens belly and chest, creates a sense of safety and calm
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.