Butterfly: Start out by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Spread your knees outward and put the soles of your feet together. Allow your knees to fall to the floor naturally without forcing them. Breathe deeply into those muscles to get them to release and relax. If you would like to stay for a longer period of time, you may place blocks or pillows underneath your knees to relax on. Hold this pose for 10 deep inhales and exhales or until you feel the muscles relax. When coming out of this pose, MOVE slowly and assist your knees back together with your hands. Bring your knees to chest, and move/roll around anyway that feels good.
Reclined Pigeon: Start by laying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Starting on your right side, raise your leg to place your right ankle over your left knee and keep your foot flexed to protect your knee. You may apply pressure to push your right knee away to get more stretch. You may also take it further by lifting your left foot and clasping your hands behind your left thigh, left shin, or straightening your leg to the sky and clasping behind your thigh. It is best to keep in mind that it is more important to do the stretch correctly than to push yourself to an uncomfortable place. Once you find your best Pigeon position, stay there for 5 breathes, slowly unwind. Repeat this move on the other side but keep in mind your other leg may not have the same flexibility, so find the move that works for you.
Alternatively, to make the move more passive, try doing this same move on the wall. Lay on your back with your feet on the wall with knees bent at 90* and do the same move as above. If you need more stretch, scoot your “sit bones” closer to the wall and increase the angle of your knees.
Forward Fold: This is a simple pose, but done correctly can help open your hips as well as your hamstrings and calves. It is also known to relieve stress, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, mild depression, and insomnia. Start by standing with feet hips distance apart, and take a big inhale. As you exhale slowly bend over at the hips (not your waist) and fold your body toward the ground, bringing you head toward your knees, and your hands to your shins, ankles or the ground. You may bend your knees if it is too intense to keep your legs straight. Bend your elbows and hold each elbow with the opposite hand and allow your head to fall limp, try shaking your head “yes” and “no” to release tension in your neck. Breathe slowly into this stretch, feeling your heels firmly into the ground while you lift your “sit bones” to the ceiling. Take a break by lifting up your body half-way up with your back straight, and then bend back into the forward fold perhaps allowing yourself into a deeper stretch.
Crescent Lunge: From your forward fold, bend your knees to place your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. Stretch your right leg behind you, staying on the ball of your foot and rest your knee to the ground (you may want some extra cushion under this knee, try a folded golf towel). Adjust yourself so that your bent left knee is above your ankle, and depending on how flexible your hips are you can shift to move your right foot further behind you. When you find your balance on your legs, raise your upper body, resting your hands on your hips. Lower your hips forward and down to feel the stretch on your front pelvis. Slowly you can raise your arms and clasp your hands above your head, while raising your gaze, slightly bend your upper body backward. If you do not feel stable in this position, go back to your hands on your hips. Hold this for 5 breaths or until you can allow your hips to become heavy and relax. To come out of this pose, place your hands back on ground shoulder width on either side of your left foot. Raise your hips and bring your right foot to meet your left foot. Relax in a forward fold, then move to your left side.
Pigeon: This can be a deep stretch for your hips and groin area, so be careful how far you go! From the crescent lunge position with your right foot back and left knee bent, place your hands on the ground shoulder width apart on either side of your left foot. Placing more body weight on your hands, toe/heel your left foot toward your right wrist, eventually bringing your left shin to the ground. Try to allow your body and hips to relax toward the ground. You should feel this stretch in your left hip and hip flexors (front of hips/groin area). Consider lowering down to your elbows, breathing slowly and deeply to keep your mind occupied. Hold this pose for at least 10 breaths to give your hips time to release. To switch sides, plant your hands (if you’ve lowered to your elbows) raise your hips to release your left leg and bring it back to meet your right foot, you are now in “Downward Dog” (More on this pose next week). Lift you right leg backward and swing it forward bending your knee and come to crescent lunge transition, place your hands on the ground on either side of your right foot and repeat the Pigeon move on this side.
Happy Baby: Find yourself on your back and relax after all those stretches. Bring your knees to your chest and relax for a breath or two. Take your “peace” fingers around your big toes or clasping the outside of your shins with your arms in between your knees. Open your knees wide with your feet up and flexed toward the ceiling, as if your feet were flat on the ceiling. Don’t worry about what you look like, but I wouldn’t recommend this stretch in public or your might get some looks. ;) Imagine your spine and hips flat against the ground and move and shift to whatever feels good for your back and hips.
To finish, lay flat on your back and do a body scan. Does your body feel different? Do your hips feel different? Take a couple of deep breathes to appreciate what your body allows you to do. Thank you for giving these moves a try today, Namaste.
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