Tag Archives: hips

Stay awhile! Using props in your Yin practice

Do you use props in your yoga practice?

supportedsaddle

http://www.yinyangyogis.com/2013/10/stay-awhile-using-props-yin-practice/

Squat Pose {Yin Series}

Come get into the hips with us over at our new blog!
http://www.yinyangyogis.com/?p=2320

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Dragon Pose and Variations {Yin Series}

Dragon Pose and Variations

The Dragon poses are the ones in yoga class where everyone moans out loud (almost, but not quite as loud for Frog pose) but you’re all secretly thanking your teacher for placing this in today’s class.  It’s also a pose that I almost have to force myself into during my home practice, but my body usually obliges when it realizes just how much sitting/driving/travelling I’ve done that week.

Dragon pose is very simple to come into and out of but -get this- it has eight different variations.  While some of them have their own individual benefits, they can help improve the health of the hip flexors and to relieve tension from the quadriceps.  Because of the deep stretch on the joint, they may help to improve sciatica.

Baby Dragon

Baby Dragon

You can come into the basic Dragon from either Down Dog or a table-top, hands and knees position, whichever is more comfortable for you.  From whichever position you chose, step the right foot through to the hands and “help” it forward (this may mean physically picking it up and setting it down) until the knee is directly over the ankle.  Now, wiggle the left (back leg) back until it is fully extended.  Place hands on either side of the right food, using blocks or other props to lift the hands if this is too intense.  This is the first variation on “Dragon Pose” and is also known as “Baby Dragon”.

Dragon Flying High

Dragon Flying High

For the next variation, rest the hands on the “standing thigh” and in this case that would be the right one.  Allow your weight to sink into the hips for a deeper stretch.  This is called “Dragon Flying High”.

Dragon Flying Low

Dragon Flying Low

A more intense version of the previous variation is “Dragon Flying Low”.  Rest both arms on the inside of the right (standing) leg.  Walk the arms away and rest on the forearms for the deepest version.

Twisted Dragon

Twisted Dragon

For “Twisted Dragon”, remain in the previous variation but use the right arm to push the right leg away and rotate the chest towards the sky.

Winged Dragon

Winged Dragon

Keeping the forearms on the inside of the right leg, wing the right knee out a few times until you are comfortably resting on the outside edge of that foot. This is “Winged Dragon”.

Overstepping Dragon

Overstepping Dragon

Starting again in Baby Dragon, shift all of your weight into the front knee, so much so that the heel of the “standing” foot is about to lift off of the ground.  This will intensify the sensation in the back hip flexor and also strengthen the front ankle joint.  This is called “Overstepping Dragon”.

Dragon Splits

Dragon Splits

“Dragon Splits” is the most advanced expression of the pose.  Straighten both legs into a splits position.  Supporting the front leg with a bolster or other prop allows the muscles to relax for a better experience in this expression.

Fire-Breathing Dragon

Fire-Breathing Dragon

The final variation, “Fire-Breathing Dragon”, can be done during any of the former variations.  Simply tuck the toes of the back foot and lift the resting knee.

My previously-stated love/hate relationship with Dragon Pose means that I enjoy playing with the different variations (except for the splits…I’m not sure I’ll ever get there!).  A word of caution…always do the same to both sides.  Walking around with one tight hip flexor and one loose is a very strange sensation.  And while you’re at it….enjoy it!

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Camel Pose {Yin Series}

Camel Pose

So, last week’s pose, was a little on the complex side, right? Let’s go back to something a bit easier this week.   This simple pose is great for hunched shoulders and drooping backs, a habit that we can all identify with from time to time.  In addition, this pose also opens up the tops of the thighs and hip flexors.  It also puts some minor (good) stress on the ankles, which is one of the areas we tend to neglect  Those who are elderly or may have spinal injuries are capable of doing this pose, but should consult with a medical professional first (or avoid it altogether, a nice alternative would be Sphinx Pose).

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The simplest way to come into this pose is to begin on the knees and sitting on the ankles.  Place your hands on the floor behind you and lift the hips forward.  This motion will create an arch in your back. If you have neck issues or are feeling any tension in the neck keep the chin tucked.  Otherwise, allow the neck to relax and the head to drop back .  Bring the hands to rest on top of the heels.

asana_camel_easyFor a more gentle version and less of an arched back, leave the hands on the floor behind you and keep the chin closer to the chest.  Whichever version you have chosen, remain here for 2-4 minutes.  When you’re ready, slowly lift the chest forward keeping the head back until the shoulders are once again over the hips. Bring the head forward and sit back into Child’s Pose

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Swan and Sleeping Swan {Yin Series}

As we near the end of the Yin asana list, have you noticed a trend? The vast majority of Yin poses focus mostly on the lower half of the body. Before we we broach the one major shoulder opener (don’t w0rry, it’s coming next week), let’s dive a little deeper into the hips.  You might notice that this pose is very similar to pigeon pose from yang varieties of yoga.  The hips tend to be fairly problematic for most people due to our desk-sitting lifestyles and the fact that many of us store unprocessed emotions in that area.

Swan Pose

Swan Pose

This is a very simple pose to come into but can be made more advanced by coming into it from downward facing dog.  If choosing the simpler route, begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.  Starting with the right side, bring the right knee between the hands. Place some weight into the right side of the body and note how your knee feels.  If there is too much tension in the knee, bring the foot closer to the hips/body until you feel the tension alleviated.  Once you’ve reached this or if you don’t have any tension in the knee to begin with, flex the right foot and position the shin so that it is parallel to the front of your mat (your right ankle should be near your left wrist).  If tight muscles in the hips prevent the shin from being parallel, that’s okay.  Just go as far as you comfortably can.  Then tuck the toes of the left foot to lift that leg off the mat a bit.  Wiggle the leg back straight behind you as far as it will (comfortably) go, making sure that the leg is in a straight line and not veering off to one side or the other.  Be sure that your weight is evenly distributed and that you’re not leaning to the left side. This is “Swan”.  If this feels like enough (your hands/arms should be in the same position that they were in tabletop), then stay here for three to five minutes.  To come out of the pose, lean into the hands releasing the right foot.  Send the right foot back to meet the left and lie flat on your belly for a few breaths.  Roll over to lay on your back and perform a few windshield wipers before repeating on the other side.

Sleeping Swan

Sleeping Swan

To come into Sleeping Swan, begin by lowering yourself from hands to forearms.  If this still feels okay move in a little further, first by stacking the fists and resting the forehead on top and then -if you’d like to go further- remove the hands and rest the forehead on the ground with the arms extended straight out in front of you. The full expression of the pose is allowing the torso to rest on the shin.  Another option is to rest the body on a bolster. Remain here for three to five minutes and follow the same steps to come out of Sleeping Swan as Swan.  Come back up onto the hands and release the right leg back to meet the left.  Come to lie flat on your belly for a couple of breaths before rolling onto the back and performing some windshield wipers before repeating the same process on the other side.

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Square Pose {Yin Series}

Square pose is one of those asanas that has a lot of room for adjustment.  Because of this, it’s still attainable to the “can’t quite touch my toes” yogi but is still beneficial for the yogi who regularly finds themselves in a pretzel-like shape.  Square pose is a deep hip opener which simultaneously releases any tension in the lower back through the forward fold.

Coming into this pose for the first time may take a little bit for you to find your ideal posture.

Crosslegged Square Pose

Crosslegged Square Pose

Begin just by sitting cross-legged, the legs a little further away from the body than where you normally place them.  Lean forward a bit here and take note of the sensation in your outer hips.  If your hips are really “talking” to you, then this is where you belong.  If there isn’t much sensation or if you don’t feel like you’ve reached your edge (which you can learn about here), try a different variation.

Square Pose with stacked legs

Square Pose with stacked legs

Lift one leg so it can rest on top of the other.  For example, if the left leg is on top, the left the ankle is resting on top of the right knee.

If your knee is not able to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the original crosslegged posture.

If your knee is not able to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the original crosslegged posture.

If tension in the hips doesn’t allow the top knee to rest on the bottom ankle, go back to the starting position and spend some time there first.  The idea is that the legs are always “square” to the front of the mat.  Wherever you decide to be, fold forward from the hips and allow the spine to round in order to release any tension from the sacral or lumbar regions.  Remain here for three to five minutes, remembering to find stillness.  You may notice that the hips begin to give and that you can stretch a bit more from the spine.  After the three to five minutes, slowly return to an upright position.  Send the legs out in front of you and do some “windshield wipers” to release the hips.  Repeat this process with the opposite leg in front/on top making sure to take note if one side is tighter than the other and making any necessary adjustments.  Enjoy another round of windshield wipers to finish.

Photo credit: http://www.yinyoga.com

Happy Baby Pose {Yin Series}

200534946-001For the month of June, Yin Yang Yogis has brought their attention to the sacral chakra.  This second chakra is located in the region of your naval, lower abdomen and back, and sexual organs.  A balanced sacral chakra leads to a yogi with freely-flowing yet balanced emotional health.  An overactive sacral chakra may manifest as someone who is overly emotional, while an underactive one can lead to someone who has a hard time interpreting or expressing emotions.  In addition, other areas such as relationships, money, warmth, and creativity may also be affected by the sacral chakra.

You’ll notice that someone with a balanced sacral chakra has the ability to just go with the flow, and who doesn’t want that? So, let’s get into it and bring balance to our chakra! Today, we’ll cover Happy Baby pose, a deep hip opener that gets right into this second chakra.  This pose is incredibly accessible to yogis of all kinds, though since it is a mild inversion those with excessively high blood pressure may choose to avoid it.

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To come into the pose, begin by lying on your back.  Hug your knees to your chest and reach around the legs to grab the soles of the feet (or alternatively the ankles or backs of the legs)  which each hand. Spread the feet so that they are over top of the knees.  This is one of the few Yin poses that can use a little muscle strength (Just joining us? You can learn about the principles of Yin here.).  The hips are a very powerful area that sometimes gravity alone can’t penetrate.  If you are in the pose and are at your “edge” no muscle activation is needed.  If you’re here and not really feeling much in your hips, apply some pressure to the feet (or whatever you’re holding onto) until you’ve reached a sensation of light discomfort and not pain.  You may find that after a few minutes of this, you’ve opened the hips enough to allow gravity in and no longer need the additional pressure.  Stay in the pose for two minutes if you are actively pulling, otherwise stay for five.

half happy babyIf you have found Happy Baby to be too intense, try Half Happy Baby which is just doing one leg at a time for a more gentle experience.

To come out of the pose, simply release the feet down to the mat with your knees bent.  Lye here for a moment and notice any new sensations.  When you’re ready, release the feet out in front of you so you are lying flat and begin to move them from side to side in a windshield wiper fashion to release the hips.  A gentle backbend is also a nice complement to Happy Baby.  Enjoy this pose two to three times per week to truly reap its benefits.

Photos courtesy of http://www.yoga.prevention.com, http://www.healing.about.com, and http://www.exercise.com