Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thighs of Relief…

I’ve been swapping fitness skills with a friend at the Y; she’s a physical trainer with tight hips and I’m a yoga instructor with (shall we say) loose hips. So we meet once a week to lunge and squat and lift for half an hour, and then we do Trikonasana (Triangle),Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) and Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) for another half an hour. It’s interesting to see how the practices differ because Connie’s workout is all strength and sweat and mine is intense and quiet. I think we’re learning a lot from each other and it’s made me especially aware of the thigh work involved in hip openers.

Actually, it’s made me painfully aware, so today I’m posting a series of stretches to help open up tight or overworked thighs. Try these after any running or walking or even yard work, to see how they can get the blood moving through tired legs.

Thigh Stretching Sequence

Sukhasana (Easy Pose) - Bring your awareness to your thighs as you sit cross-legged. Try to release any tension in the hip joints and thigh muscles.

Padangusthasana (Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)-Lie on your back and breathe deeply into the back of the legs as you draw your foot towards you with the belt and press the back of the thigh away. Try to keep the pelvis balanced (there will be a curve at the lower back). Lower the leg to the side and rest the thigh on a block so you can concentrate on opening the hip joint instead of tipping over. Repeat on the other side.

Virasana (Hero Pose) - Lower your hips between your ankles (or onto a block), trying to keep the knees together. Keep the lower spine long and make sure the tailbone points down. Try to hold the pose for awhile and, if you can, lower your hips closer to the floor to deepen the stretch. This may work better with a folded blanket than a block under the hips. You could add a stretch to the arms, such as Namaste to the back or Gomukhasana (Cow’s Head Arms).

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) - Come onto your hands and knees from Hero and then lift up into Dog. As in Hand-to-Big-Toe, lengthen though the side ribs and press the thighs back. Don’t try to press your heels down; the pressing of the thighs back will eventually release the feet towards the floor.

Thigh Stretch at Wall- This is a pretty intense stretch, so move into it slowly. Come to your hands and knees, with the feet at the wall. Then bend one knee so it is on the floor and stretch your shin up the wall. You may want a blanket under that knee. Bring the other foot to the floor, start lifting the torso, and come to a mini-lunge at the wall. Lengthen the front of the wall hip to relax and open the thigh muscle. Hold for at least 10 breaths, and then switch to the other side.

Paschimottanasana (Relaxed Forward Bend) Come back onto the floor, with the legs in Dandasana (Staff pose) under a chair or stool. Relax the upper body onto the support of the chair and breathe into the stretch in the backs of the legs. Try to keep releasing the legs in this comfortable position and maybe you can fold further forwards.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) - Extend onto the floor and try and keep your legs and hips totally relaxed. Hold for as long as you like. ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

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