Hips & Hamstrings – A short flow to loosen up the lower body

Chances are that when you read this you are sitting down. Right? Well, we humans do a lot of sitting these days. A lot. As a result we tend to stiffen up and get all kinds of tight in the hips and the hamstrings. So here I am, to the rescue, with this lovely little flow to loosen up the tightness in the lower body. Give it a try!

1. Padangusthasana

Or Big Toe Pose. This one creates plenty of length in the hamstrings, plus as a bonus your upper body gets to hang out with your lower body which really doesn’t happen all that much but I’m fairly certain they are great friends!

How to: Start from standing, grounding the feet down, about hip width apart. Really lengthening the spine and start to fold over from the hips, keeping the length in the spine. Then hook the first two fingers around the big toes, maybe taking a nice deep bend in the knees. Taking a deep inhale to lengthen the spine, drawing the shoulders back and then starting to draw the tailbone up into the air and perhaps slowly starting to straighten the knees.

2. Anjaneyasana

Or low lunge. This one is really great for reaching into the hip flexor.

How to: From Padangusthasana bending the knees and stepping the left leg back, lowering the knee to the mat (if you’ve got sensitive knees you can either double fold your mat or pop a blanket underneath it). Inhale to reach the arms forward and up into the air. Exhale to hold, allowing the shoulders to draw down and gently tucking the ribs in to keep the core engaged. To really activate the hip action draw the flexed hip back (the one with the bent knee) and gently push the extended hip forward.

3. Quad stretch

This one is great for stretching into the hip flexor and quad muscles.

How to: From the low lunge gently lower the hands down to the mat. Inhale to reach an arm up into the air, grounding down with the other, twisting towards the bent knee. Exhale to bend the back knee, starting to draw the heel in towards the bum and then reaching the lifted hand to grab a hold of the foot, gently drawing it in.

4. Low lunge to half split flow

This one flows between stretching the front of the hip and into the hamstring.

How to: From the quad stretch, gently release the foot down and bring both hands to the floor, squaring off the shoulders. Take a deep inhale, gently pressing the hips forward. Exhale to draw the hips back, extending the front knee. Try to keep the hips square throughout. Breathe deeply and flow between the two postures a few times.

5. Parsvottanasana

This pyramid pose variation has both hands on the floor (or on blocks) and it stretches deep into the hamstrings.

How to: From your low lunge, inhale to ground the feet down and lift the hips up, straightening out the legs. Keeping the hips squared and lengthening the spine.

6. Adho Mukha Svanasana

Or Downward-facing dog. Most people will be very familiar with this one. This is one of those double or even triple duty poses, it’s great for creating length in the hamstring and back, it’s great for strengthening the shoulders, it’s just great.

How to: From your pyramid pose gently bend the knees, ground the hands down and step the leg back. Ground both the hands and feet down, creating a stable base, and then find a bit of lift in the tailbone, gently starting to point it up into the air. Drawing the shoulders away from the ears, but also spreading the shoulder blades wide, having this sensation of pointing the armpits towards each other. Draw the navel in and keep the ribs gently tucked towards each other. The neck is neutral and the breath is steady.

If bending the knees helps you create more length in the spine, then go for it!

7. Pigeon pose

I don’t think that as a yoga teacher I’m allowed to have a favourite asana, but if I did then this one would definitely be a strong contender for nr 1.

How to: From down dog inhale to reach one leg up and exhale to bring the knee in towards the opposite hand and gently lower the leg all the way to the mat. Keeping the hips squared, maybe even popping a block underneath the bum (on the bent side) to help keep the hips squared. Inhale to lengthen the spine, drawing up through the crown of the head and exhale to hold.

Maybe you want to stay lifted or maybe after a few breaths you want to lower the upper body down towards the mat, allowing it to melt into the ground.

After you’ve taken a few deep breaths gently lift back into your downward-facing dog. Then taking a nice bend in the knees, walk the feet in to meet the hands and move into your Padangusthasana again to repeat 1 – 7 on the other side.

8. Baddha Konasana

This one works on stretching a bit more into the groin and inner thighs.

How to: After repeating 1 – 7 on both sides, gently bring yourself down on the mat. Bring both feet together, allowing the knees to drop down to either side. Grounding down through the sit-bones and lengthening up through the crown of the head. Gently, keeping the length in the spine, start to fold over the feet. Try activating the thighs and glutes to gently draw the knees further down towards the mat.

After a few breaths gently lift up, maybe shake out the legs a bit, maybe take a few breaths in a seated meditation, maybe take a nice juicy savasana – you deserve it!

Hope you enjoyed this little tutorial! And if you have any request please send them my way!

Until next time! Sx

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