This intermediate forward bend practice begins with standing poses to wake up the hips and legs and establish the relationship between the legs and the torso. Props are used to help define and open the front of the hip crease, creating separation between the legs and torso. Then come inversions, in which the legs are used to lift and support the torso, creating torso/leg separation in a different way. Single leg variations in Shoulder Stand are included to work with the relationship of the legs to the hips once again. Finally, simple seated forward bends are practiced, with and without props to explore the leg/hip relationship.
This practice features a brief warm-up against the wall and is followed by an extended vinyasa sequence going up on toes and down to the floor. After a brief resting period, the intelligence and openness cultivated in the legs is taken into Head Stand and Shoulder Stand variations, taking the weight of the body off the legs, but requiring the legs to remain articulate and directed.
Today’s practice is a straight run-through of the key lateral standing poses, preceded by a short sequence to wake up your feet, knees and upper body. It finishes up with inversions to take the weight off your legs and to give you an opportunity to use the organization you have created in your legs to lift your weight up out of your torso and aid in balance.
In this sequence, think of lengthening the inner thighs, as in the previous practice, while softening and widening the buttocks, the outer hips, outer thighs and lower back.
Think of softening and widening the entire side body from the outer hips all the way up to the highest point of the armpits.
The big day is over and you still have a long weekend ahead of you. You’ve got time on your hands and an abundance of energy. Time to put it to good use. This practice has a little bit of everything in it: inversions, standing poses, core work, back bends and twists. Feel free to cut it back according to your capabilities and the time available to you. You might try doing about half of the poses in the practice today, half of the poses tomorrow and then have a go at the whole thing from beginning to end on Sunday.
In this practice we will focus on creating length and support with the inner leg so that the hips and lower back can have a chance to soften. Consider the following points as you do your poses:
- Narrow and lengthen your inner thighs towards your head as you lengthen your inner calves into your heels. In some poses the inner thighs should lengthen in different directions to create the necessary support as described below.
- As your lengthen out your inner legs, allow your inner knees to soften forward. This is an important point to keep coming back to as we often turn the thighs in and push the knees back when we activate our inner thigh.
- Soften and widen your hips creases outward, away from each other. This action will also help to undo the overworking of the inner knee and will allow the outer hips a chance to release.
- Soften and widen you outer hips and lower back.
- Lengthen your big toes forward and your inner heels back.
Each of these poses has a core component to them. Very often, people think engaging the core means squeezing the abdomen, tucking the tail towards the pubic bone and gripping the pelvic floor. All this serve to do is compress the spine and organs shortening and hardening the true deep core muscles: the hip flexors and the muscles of the lower back. This can lead to all sorts of problems over time.
Throughout the practice, apply the following points:
- Find your inner thighs. By this, I mean allow your inner thighs to be part of the pose, narrowing them and lengthening them away from your head.
- As you find and engage your inner thighs, soften and widen your buttocks, outer hips and lower back.
- Narrow and lengthen the sides of your waist towards your head.
- Draw your navel into your pine, keeping the abdomen long and wide.
- Soften the neck, the jaw and the tongue.
In this basic standing pose practice, we will focus on freeing up the soles of the feet and drawing weight up through the torso in order to take the weight of the joints and hopefully create a greater sense of freedom as you move. Consider the following actions as you go through the sequence:
- Ground evenly through the toe mounds.
- Lengthen the toes and heels without gripping the top of the foot.
- Allow the top of the shin to shift towards the toes to unlock the knee.
- Draw the torso headwards to take weight out of and unlock your hips, ankles and knees. Initiate movement into and out of your poses with this upward movement.
- In standing poses, lift through the torso to roll the toes up and rise up onto the heel of the front foot. Maintain the lift in the torso. Roll through foot to bring it back down and soften towards toes.
In this practice, we will focus on balancing the weight evenly though the center point of each foot, just in front of the ankle. This will help keep the knees and hips balanced, encouraging them to soften and become freer.
In each of the standing poses consider the following:
- Spread the toes and the bones of the foot. Spread the arches and lengthen the heels back. Keep the feet lively and supportive.
- Balance the weight evenly on each center point of the foot, without shifting forward, back or to the side.
- In poses with both feet on the ground, also balance the weight evenly between the two center points.
- In poses where the legs are apart and both feet are on the ground, roll the weight through the center point of the front foot and out through the toes. In the back leg, reach through the thigh and out through the center point.
In each of these poses, focus on the following points:
- Reach through the back leg as you lengthen the abdomen towards the head to open the hip crease.
- Find support from the strength of the inner thighs and soften the hips and buttocks.
- Lengthen the front of the body while keeping the back body wide and un-crunched. (more…)