It’s a rainy Monday here in Texas. This morning during my class, it was thundering and lovely! I’m so grateful for the rain. This week we continuing our focus on the variety-rich poses in the “dragon” family. This week we delve into the splits variations of the dragon poses. These poses can be rather intense on the hips and hamstrings, so do be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to ease into the posture. Do your best to breathe through the discomfort, taking on sensation through the inhales and releasing through the exhales. The space created from these poses can lead to all kinds of wonderful benefits, but we have to find some stillness. Do your best!
To get into the basic posture, make your way to table top or down dog and draw one foot through in between the hands. Place the knee so it’s just above the ankle (rather than jolting beyond the ankle). Walk your back knee toward the back of the mat to settle the hips into the right amount of intensity for you to start with. Starting here in a lunge position allows for you to release the tight muscles on the front body (quad and psoas especially).
After about 1-2 minutes in a lunge position, you can begin to shift your hips back as you straighten out the front leg. Curl the toes slightly in toward the shin to activate the front of the leg. You can stay in this variation or begin to inch your front heel forward and your other leg back until you find a good place to stop and breathe for a bit. See variations below for some suggested ways to SLOWLY make your way all the way down. I would recommend these even if you have flexible hamstrings. Being mindful in the journey down is just as (if not more) powerful as the fullest expression itself.
DON’T RUSH – The point of the posture is to find resistance and breathe through it. Rushing beyond your sensations is not only physically unsafe but it’s robbing you from the true experience of release. In addition, the hamstrings are easily pulled and take forever to heal. So please be gentle with your body and only deepen when you truly feel release. It will almost feel as if your body is granting you permission to explore new depths.
DETAILS – Feel free to cushion the back knee if the surface you’re practicing on it hard. You can also keep the back toes tucked until you can comfortably untuck them without torquing the knee.
Elevate your hips | To decrease the intensity of the posture, lift yourself up a bit higher to blocks or keep the arms straight the whole time.
Folded forward | Sometimes folding forward actually takes some of the intensity out of the posture. Feel free to explore how it feels in your body – and force nothing! Relax your shoulders here.
Half Happy Baby | If pressure on the back knee is too much, you can alternatively do your half happy baby pose on your back.
Drop the knee to the side | As long as there’s no pain, you can spin the front foot to a slight angle and drop the knee to the side rolling to the pinky edge of the foot. Do keep some engagement in the foot so the ankle remains protected from possible injury. You can stay or grab the back foot for a twisted monkey variation.
Walk the hands to the side | To encourage a deeper release in the hips as well as the side body, walk your hands in the opposite direction of the feet. You can stay lifted or play with lowering the forearms.
Opens up hips, hamstring and quad/psoas muscles
Also a nice way to restore curvature in lumbar spine (if upright in pose). Helps to reverse the roundedness that tends to occur because of cultural habits such as sitting for long hours.
Helps restore overall hip mobility where fascia (tough connective tissue) might be causing irritation and “tension”
Stretches the hip flexor and thigh muscle of the back leg (especially when you add the twisted monkey variation).
Primarily stimulates the stomach, spleen, liver, gall bladder and kidney lines.
Let your cares go… Poses that dig into the hip joints are known to help with emotional release. As you feel strong or even subtle emotions surface, allow yourself to acknowledge them, feel them and then breathe them out. Your energetic body has it’s own natural cleansing process so honor that as you feel these things arise in postures such as this.
USE CAUTION: Contraindications for this posture include…
Pain/Injury in the knee or ankle joints. Be sure to support yourself using props (a blanket can be helpful for cushioning the back leg) so you are careful not to strain these already sensitive parts of the body.
Ouch!. If you feel any kind of sharp, shooting pains – come out and then find a variation that only brings forth a stretching sensation – rather than a pinching one.
HOLD: 3-5 minutes, depending on your own personal needs. You can do each variation of this pose for 1-2 minutes each before switching to the other side. Come out of this pose very slowly from this posture (as with any yin pose).
Windshield wipers will also feel nice on the hips. A gentle childs pose will also feel nice on the back and the legs.