Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method Twitter Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method Facebook Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method Instagram Jason Crandell Vinyasa Yoga Method Pinterest

Our shop is open!

CHECK IT OUT

Tag Archives: hip openers

A Balanced Yoga Sequence to Lotus Pose

First, a shameless plug: Registration for my 2018 Teaching Trainings is live! If you want to move your practice and teaching forward, this training is the place to do it!

QUESTION
I struggle with tight hips and I want to learn Lotus Posture (Padmasana). Can you suggest a sequence that will help me open my hips and do Lotus Pose?

ANSWER
There’s a common mistake many of us make when trying to grow a Lotus: We focus too much on stretching the outer hips and forget to open the other muscle groups that make up the hip joint. Don’t get me wrong: the outer hips usually need plenty of help. But, the key to freedom and balance in your hips is working with all the muscle groups that affect the joint, not just your bum. The following sequence will make your hips be happier and healthier — and, if anything is going to help you sit in Lotus, it’s this practice.

THE ESSENTIAL ANATOMY

There are a couple of things to understand about your hips in order to approach them skillfully in your practice. First, your hip joint (coxal joint) is a ball and socket. This is simple enough, but it has big implications. It means that your hip joint is 360 degrees and has muscles around the entire circumference that produce motion in the joint. In order to create a balanced hip opening sequence you need to address all of these muscle groups. Be sure to target each of the following muscular compartments:

Hip Flexors

These muscles cross over the front of your hip joint and flex the hip.

Adductors

These muscles that line the inside of your upper thigh are usually left out hip-opening sequences. If these muscles are tight, your knees will remain far away from the floor when you attempt Lotus. These muscles need to be supple so that the thighs can drop as you fold your legs into Lotus.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are not a significant factor in Lotus and they’re not usually thought of as hip muscles. However, they originate on the bottom of your pelvis, cross the back of the hip socket, and run down the back of your leg. The primary joint that they work on is the hip joint. This means that a balanced hip opening sequence will include postures that release this group of muscles.

External Rotators and Gluteus Maximus

Describing the Gluteals and their functions in a few words is tough because this family of three muscles does a lot of different work. Suffice it to say that we tend to think of this region when we think of hip openers. This is the bittersweet part of the body that we stretch when we do Pigeon Pose.

Abductors

Targeting this region is another key step in releasing hip tension and developing Lotus. These muscles run from the outside of the hip, cross the outside of the hip joint and attach to the outside of the thigh. Since this region is harder to get good leverage on than the external rotators, it is often short-changed in hip opening sequences.

THE SEQUENCE

It’s a good idea to warm up for this sequence with 5 to 15 minutes of Sun Salutations.

Modified Anjaneyasana

Focus on rooting down through the top of your back foot and lifting up through your hip points to get the most from this hip flexor opener. Maintain mild abodominal engagement while you do this pose.

 

Low Lunge Quad Stretch

This posture continues the hip opening that began in Anjaneyasana and digs deeply into the quadriceps.

 

Prasarita Padottanasana

This wide-legged standing forward bend stretches your hamstrings and adductors. It also prepares you for the more intense squat that follows.

 

Malasana

This is the most effective standing posture for releasing tension in the adductors. Use forearms to press your thighs away from the midline to intensify the stretch.

 

Pigeon Pose with a Twist

This version of Pigeon will help you access part of your adductors and external rotators and lead to more comfort in Lotus. To be effective, lift and turn your torso toward your front leg. Use your hand to pull strongly against your front knee.

 

Ankle-to-Knee with a Sidebend

To make this posture most effective, be sure to place your top ankle on your bottom knee and flex your foot.

 

Padmasana

I don’t think of Padmasana as a “hip-opener.” I think of Padmasana as a posture to sit in once your hips are open. Unlike the previous postures, Padmasana doesn’t use effective leverage to stretch the muscles of you hip-joint. In fact, the leverage induced through your shin bones in this posture is more likely to stress your knees than your hips if your hips are restricted. With this in mind, here is a step by step approach to folding your legs into padmasana:

  1. Start with both legs straight in Staff Pose.
  2.  

  3. Bend your right knee deeply and bring your right heel to your sitting bone. Do NOT simply bend the right knee and drag the foot into Half Lotus. Instead, fully flex the right knee first–without externally rotating it.
  4.  

  5. Now, that your right knee is fully flexed, externally rotate and abduct your right knee. Then, bring your leg into Half Lotus.
  6.  

  7. If your right knee is comfortable in Half Lotus, proceed to Step 5. If not, take your leg out of lotus and work on any of the above postures that felt the most necessary.
  8.  

  9. If your right knee is comfortable in Half Lotus, bring your left leg into Full Lotus.
  10.  

  11. Make sure to place your feet high enough on your thighs to prevent your outer-ankles from over-stretching.
  12.  

  13. Take a few breaths before repeating on the other side.
     

This post was originally featured on yogaglo. Please visit yogaglo.com where I offer online classes as well as e-courses focusing on sequencing and anatomy.

1 comment Add Your Own

Summer Series! Ep 2: What’s Missing from Your Hip-Focused Practices

We love, love, love to stretch our hips in yoga. Pigeon Pose — oh yeah. Lizard — yep. Thread the Needle — mmmhmmm. But sometimes we focus on how good opening the outer hips feels to the exclusion of creating strength and stability in the support muscles. Similarly, we focus on the part of our hips that screams the loudest (outer hips) while neglecting another tight area that’s quieter (hip flexors).

On this episode, Jason maps out three ways to create balance in the complex network of the hips. After recording this episode, I realized that it’s a metaphor for life: We want to stay open and flexible. And this requires time and attention. But we also need to focus on stability, strength, and grounding. When we find the right subtle balance, we feel happier and more free.

* Note: We refer to a quad opener in the episode, which is sometimes called Twisted Monkey. Jason calls it Low Lunge Quad Stretch. I’ve put the illustration below the player so you can see it and incorporate it into your practice!

Subscribe via: iTunes | Acast | RSS

WRITE A REVIEW
If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! It makes it easier for others to find the podcast. If you don’t know how to leave a review, here are some step by step instructions. Woohoo! So easy!

7 comments Add Your Own

Essential Sequence: Pigeon + Chaturanga = Eka Pada Galavasana

flying-pigeon_crop

WHY THIS SEQUENCE WORKS

Eka Pada Galavasana is not an easy posture, but it’s a simple posture. If you take a step back and look at the pose, you’ll see it’s a combination of Pigeon Pose and Chaturanga Dandasana. Even more precisely, it’s Pigeon Pose on top of Chaturanga. This means that there’s no mystery when it comes to sequencing for Eka Pada Galavasana: Your job is to prepare yourself (or your students) for a solid, skillful Chaturanga and a spacious, supple Pigeon Pose. The sequence above does this by focusing on core strength, upper body strength, and outer hip flexibility. Here’s a detailed look at the method behind the sequence:

POSES 1 & 2

If you’ve practiced with me live, on yogaglo, or with these sequencing illustrations, you’ve probably figured out that I start a ton of sequences on my back. This is a reflection of my personal practice which almost invariably commences with me laying on the floor—especially if I know that I’m going to work hard later in the sequence. It’s an incredibly effective, low energy way to create mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and spine. The first two postures provide good bang for your buck. They require very little effort and they produce a fair amount of leverage to start chipping away at hip tension.

POSES 3 – 5

Not everything you practice on your back is effortless. This combination of reclined arm balances will wake up your core, get your blood moving, and heat your body in very little time.

POSES 6 & 7

Now that your body is a little warmer after your reclined arm balances, it’s time to dig into your hips a little deeper. Postures 6 and 7 will help warm up your body for the even deeper outer hip openers that directly precede Eka Pada Galavasana.

POSTURES 8 & 9

I wrote earlier that Eka Pada Galavasana was a combination of Pigeon and Chaturanga. I’m sticking with this assessment, but there’s an important nuance that postures 8 & 9 address. Neither Pigeon nor Chaturanga require significant engagement of your hamstrings or spinal muscles, but, Eka Pada Galavasana does. Your hamstrings and spinal muscles help elevate your back leg in Eka Pada Galavasana–this isn’t required in Pigeon or Chaturanga. Postures 8 & 9 help integrate these muscles into your overall body awareness so that you’re ready to use them in the upcoming arm balance.

POSTURES 10 – 13

This is a straightforward progression of deeper and deeper outer hip openers that culminates in Eka Pada Galavasana. If you struggle to get your shin on top of your elbows and place your hands on the floor, your hips may be too tight for the pose. If this is the case, practice the hip openers in this sequence more consistently. If you can get the position above, but struggle to lift your bottom foot and straighten your bottom leg toward the back of the mat, you may need to work on core, upper-body, and spinal strength. Good luck!

Want to practice this sequence at home? If you sign up for our newsletter, we’ll send you free printer-friendly PDF of the sequence above!

AND, if you want to feel more confident and knowledgeable about your sequencing skills, check out my e-course, The Art of Yoga Sequencing. It’s great for yoga teachers and students who want to better understand how the body works and how to stretch and strengthen effectively.

{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

4 comments Add Your Own

Yoga and Your Hips, Part III

First, a quick, shameless plug: I’ve just announced the dates and location for my 2017 Advanced Teacher Trainings. You can check here for more information and register at LoveStory Yoga. OK, now onto the regularly scheduled program.

These are, hands down, my favorite 15 poses for opening the hips.

Creating a balanced, effective hip-opening sequence is simple if you know how the hip muscles are laid out. When you don’t have for a map for their hips, you’re at a higher risk for overstretching your hamstrings and external rotators compared to your hip flexors and adductors. Teachers make this mistake in their sequencing regularly and, as a result, hamstring insertion injuries are one of the most prevalent injuries in modern yoga.

If you haven’t read them already, start with Yoga and Your Hips, Part I and Part II . The model of the “5 Muscular Compartments of Your Hips” in Parts I & II is the same approach that I take when I teach anatomy live and online. (And If you want to learn even more about yoga anatomy and yoga sequencing, you can join one of my ongoing e-courses.)

The sequence here contains my three of favorite postures for each compartment of your hip. I practice this sequence several times a week and I still love the feeling of space and mobility it gives me. I hope it helps you feel good in your body!

One quick thing before the sequence breakdown: If you’d like to be among the first to know about our new posts, sign up for our newsletter. As a thank you, we’ll send you a free arm balance guide, plus 5 sequences that are not on the blog!

Hip Compartment #1: Hip Flexors

Pose 1: Anjaneyasana
Keep your back thigh vertical here. Why? Because keeping your back thigh vertical and stacking your pelvis and spine directly over your thigh helps stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors.

Pose 2: Anjaneyasana
Lower your hips forward and down to isolate and stretch your hip flexors, especially your rectus femoris.

Pose 3: Anjaneyasana
Leaning into the side bend from Anjaneyasana helps stretch your obliques and quadratus lumborum along with your hip flexors.

Hip Compartment #2: Adductors

Pose 1: Malasana
Malasana provides a thorough, inner leg stretch while also flexing the knees and hips deeply.

Pose 2: Prasarita Padottanasana with bent knee
Bending one knee and pressing your forearm against your thigh allows you to create a deep, sustained stretch on the entire adductor group.

Pose 3: Bound Side Angle
The action of binding in this posture provides you with a shoulder opener in addition to the adductor stretch.

Hip Compartment #3: Hamstrings

Pose 1: Parsvottanasana
This foundational standing pose allows you to focus on stretching one set of hamstrings at a time. This may be more effective for students with tight hamstrings than stretching both sets of hamstrings at time like you do in Uttanasana.

Pose 2: Prasarita Padottanasana
In addition to stretching your hamstrings, this pose also stretches your adductors.

Pose 3: Standing Split / Warrior III Hybrid
While similar to Parsvottanasana, this one-legged standing posture provides a deep, isolated hamstring stretch.

Hip Compartment #4: External Rotators

Pose 1: Pigeon Pose
This bittersweet posture uses the weight of your entire body to stretch your external rotators.

Pose 2: Ankle-to-Knee
Placing one ankle on the opposite inner knee externally rotates your thighs even more deeply than Pigeon Pose.

Pose 3: Reclined Pigeon
Clasping your leg and reclining in Pigeon Pose stretches your glutes, external rotators, and abductors.

Hip Compartment #5: Abductors

Pose 1: Reclined Gomukhasana
Reclining in Gomukhasana allows your entire body to relax and settle, while providing you with a deep abductor stretch.

Pose 2: Gomukhasana
This classic seated posture provides efficient leverage for opening your abductors.

Pose 3: Gomukhasana with sidebend
Including a sidebend in this posture gives you a deep abductor stretch while also releasing tension in your obliques and quadratus lumborum.

Jason Crandell Hip Sequence

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and you’ll never miss a post!

12 comments Add Your Own

Yoga and Your Hips, Part II

Baddha Konasana
For more than a decade, I’ve quivered at the thought of attending a hip-opening workshop. Having played ice hockey and been a skateboarder for more 15 years, my hips were molten lead that no amount of Pigeon Pose could crack open. Now, 20 years in, I’ve chipped away and breathed steadily enough to be halfway comfortable and mobile in these joints.

As I step back and look at the challenges my hips presented, I finally realize that the issue wasn’t just hockey and skateboarding. Part of the problem was that I didn’t understand the joints or muscles that I was working with. I didn’t have a “map” of the region to make sure that I was stretching and strengthening all the muscles involved in the hip joint. I was overly focused on my outer hips and hamstrings, while ignoring my hip flexors and adductors. I didn’t understand the nature of the hip socket and that truly “opening” the hips requires a more intelligent, comprehensive approach.

I’m creating this guide because I know it would have helped me practice and teach more effectively years ago. This is the approach that I stick to when I’m working with my students and trainees—and, when I teach anatomy live and online. I’m hopeful that it will give you a simple framework for understanding your hip muscles. Make sure to check out my Illustrated Guide to Yoga and Your Hips, Part 1. It describes the structure and ligaments of the joint and will help you understand the hip joint more clearly. I’ll be creating Part III very soon. It will provide you with a balanced sequence for strengthening and opening your hips. Click Here to Subscribe, and you’ll receive Part III in your inbox as soon as it’s ready!

Continue reading Read More > >

21 comments Add Your Own