Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tight Quads? Try This.

I think this is the most effective, albeit intense, opener for the quadriceps I know. As opposed to the typical standing quadriceps stretch (shown to the left), the posture I will detail requires minimal exertion to maintain the structure. You don't have to balance on one leg or use any arm effort to deepen the stretch. Here, you will use your body weight and gravity to send breath, space, and length into the quadriceps and hip flexors. The following set of pictures and instructions will show you how to get into the posture safely, how to support yourself within it, how to go deeper, and how to exit safely.

Start by grabbing two yoga blocks and one blanket. If you don't have yoga blocks, you can use two stacks of hardcover books, two coffee cans, or something else that is sturdy. You can sub a folded over yoga mat or a towel for a blanket. Find an open section of wall space with which to work.

Place your blanket up against the wall. Come into a table top position with both knees down and hands on blocks. Then walk your table top all the way back to the wall so that you can bend your right knee and, pointing it down, bring it into the corner where the floor and the wall meet. (Shown below)

Press your right foot onto the wall. Shimmy your blocks over to the right - this will give your left foot space to step through. As carefully as you can, press down into your blocks and step your left foot forward onto the floor.

Cross the left hand and block to the outside of your left foot. If your left foot is not in line with your hip, scoot it over to the right until it is. You are in the pose! Below you will see a head-on photo and a side shot. In the head-on photo, notice the alignment of each knee with each hip. In the side view, see that the right foot is pressing back into the wall, the hips are sinking forward and down, and the heart (with the help of the blocks) is tall and open, allowing space for breath to enter the body and reach the hips. The shoulders stay relaxed.

At first this pose can be a lot to breathe through. I teach it in a lot of my yoga classes and even the flexy, bendy, pretzel people can have difficulty with it, so be patient. Feel where you are gripping and tensing. Take a deep breath and when you exhale, see if any of that tension falls. Feel if the most resistance is in the quadriceps, the hip flexors, the gripping shoulders, etc.

If you want to go deeper, climb your hands up onto your thigh. Press the thigh away and lift your chest to the sky. Deeper still? Reach your arms overhead. Press into the wall with the back foot, surge the hips forward and down, press down into your front foot, and soar the heart skyward.

IMPORTANT!! To exit the pose, bring your left knee to the floor AND THEN bring your right knee off of the wall coming back to table top. If this was very intense, take a break between each side. Sit down and breathe deeply. Then practice the other side reversing all lefts and rights.

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