Tightness in the legs and hips can often lead to a sore and tired lower back. While yoga has many excellent hamstring stretches, these forward folds are usually practiced in a standing or seated position, where the spine can round. By practicing leg stretches on your back, you ensure that the spine remains neutral and supported, which protects the back from flexing and focuses the stretch into the legs. Press your foot strongly into the strap to help you reach through your lifted leg. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
By stretching your leg straight up to the sky, you focus the stretch into the back of your leg. Keep your pelvis anchored down into your mat as you reach up through your heel. Be aware of hunching your shoulders, and pull gently on the strap to broaden your chest. Give yourself enough slack on the strap as you need to fully extend your leg.
Taking the leg to the side helps to stretch the medial hamstring and groin muscles. Keep the opposite side of your ribs and pelvis heavy to avoid rolling to the side. Plug the thigh bone into the socket as you stretch through the heel. If the strap becomes lax, move your hand closer to your foot.
Gluteus medius and the IT Band
This stretch can be intense! Keeping your pelvis anchored firmly down into your mat, bring your leg diagonally across your body to create a long stretch from your outer hip to outer ankle. Beware of the hip riding up and use your hand at your hip crease to encourage the side of your waistline to stay long from shoulder to hip.
Repeat the stretches on the second side. Get up slowly, and notice in difference in how you feel!
A yogi, writer, and educational designer, Rachel loves helping others explore and express their passion and potential. As a designer, she helps studios and yoga teachers create their dream teacher trainings. As a writer and speaker, she continually wrestles with the juicy bits of life: relationships, anxiety, depression, and discovering meaning in this crazy, wildish world. Author: Wit and Wisdom from the Yoga Mat, Head Over Heels: A Yogi's Guide To Dating. E-RYT 500, YACEP, MFA, MSci. Meet her at Rachelyoga.com.
Gratitude is an attitude that can be cultivated not only around Thanksgiving for blessings in our lives, but during each moment of life — towards ourselves! Our brains are programmed to protect and to survive, and when we live a life out in the world it is nearly impossible to avoid feelings of self-judgment or unworthiness.