by Rebecca Weible | January 2, 2018 11:57 pm
The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful time of the year between holiday shopping, events, family tensions and end of the year deadlines at work. Stress has the tendency to stay in our bodies and because the hip is the largest joint in the body and does work almost every time you move, it becomes a central place for physical and emotional stress to settle. The hips are responsible for moving your largest appendages, the legs.
Additionally, the hips are at the center of the body and affect movement in the core and spine. To manage all of this, there are large muscles surrounding the hips such as the iliotibial bands, the psoas and glutes. These large muscles become tight due to daily movement such as walking, repetitive movement such as running or cycling and even sitting for large amounts of time make these muscles tighter and trap stress. With this in mind, hip opening becomes pertinent to physical and mental health around the holiday season. Follow this short sequence as often as possible leading up to the holidays to reduce stress and stay tension free! This time of year can make it hard to carve out even a little time for yourself so check out two ‘on-the-go’ poses you can do anywhere!
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Stand in the middle of your mat facing the long side of the mat. Step the feet wide apart – if you reach your arms out into a T-shape, your wrists should line up over your ankles. Bring your hands to your hips, hug your elbows towards each other across the back and start to fold forward, keeping the chest open and the back straight. When your torso is parallel to the mat, bring your hands to the floor (you can bend the knees if your hands do not reach with legs straight) right underneath the shoulders and start to drop your head towards the floor, looking back in between your feet. If you feel comfortable and flexible here, walk your hands back in between the feet so the fingers and toes line up. Make sure the weight is even front to back in the feet and that all of the weight is not in the heels. Aim to line up the hips and ankles. Press into the outer edges of your feet and, at the same time, hug your ankles towards each other. These dual actions firm up the lower leg and create stability. Take 5 deep breaths.
To come out, walk the hands back under the shoulders and straighten your spine. Press into the outer edges of your feet and bring your hands back to your hips, hugging the elbows towards each other across the back and come back up to stand. Once you are standing, walk your feet back together.
Standing in the middle of your mat, facing the short end, walk the feet mat-width apart. Fold forward and bring your hands down to the mat, bending your knees to reach the mat if needed. Lift your heels away from the mat and drop your butt down towards your heels, coming into a squat. Your heels may come all the way down to the mat, or you may balance on the balls of the feet. Turn your toes out so they line up with the knees. Press your elbows into the respective inner knees and bring your hands together into a prayer position at the center of your chest. Use the pressure between the palms to help press the knees outward and lift your chest. Try to straighten your spine as much as possible – almost like someone dropped an ice cube down the back of your shirt! Take 5 deep breaths.
To come out, bring your hands to the floor and slowly straighten your legs, turning your toes forward once more. Take a couple deep breaths in your forward fold and either roll up to stand or you can repeat the squat two more times. The first one will feel the tightest and you will feel looser with each subsequent squat.
Start in downward dog. Bring your right leg forward and line up your right knee behind your right wrist, bringing your right shin down to the mat. Lengthen the left leg behind you and try to make your left leg parallel to the left, long side of the mat. Let the hips rock a little side to side until the hips feel square, with both hip points shining straight forward. Place your hands on the mat in front of your right shin and lengthen your spine. You can stay here, or start to walk the hands forward until you come down to your forearms. Stay in this pose from 30 seconds to a full minute.
To come out, press your hands down under your shoulders and slide the right knee back until you come to hands and knees. Return to downward dog and repeat on the left side.
Outer Hip Stretch
Lay down on your back. Bring your right knee into your chest keeping your left leg straight and rest on the mat. Bring your left hand to your right ankle and guide your right leg across the body, anchoring the sole of your right foot on the floor outside of the left hip. Keep your left hand on your right ankle to stabilize it and keep it in place. Without moving your right foot, let your right shoulder blade relax down to the mat and move your right hip down in the direction of the mat until you feel a stretch along the outer right hip and thigh. Remain here for 5-10 breaths. Release your right ankle and roll back to center. Switch legs and repeat on the left side.
Reclined Cow-Face Pose
Lay down on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the mat. Lift your feet from the mat and cross your right leg over your left, high above the knees. Grab your right ankle with your left hand, and your left ankle with your right hand. Gently pull the feet towards your face and kick them away from the midline of the body. Hold this for 3-5 breaths, release the ankles and uncross your legs. Repeat with the left leg over the right.
Ankle to Knee
Sitting slightly towards the edge of a chair, rest both feet on the floor and sit up tall. Cross your right ankle on top of your left thigh making your right shin parallel to the floor. Flex your right foot and make sure your left knee lines up over your left ankle. Keeping your back straight, start to tilt forward and try to rest your elbows on your right shin. Keep your chest reaching forward, shoulders relaxed. Breathe here from 30 seconds to a minute. To come out, come back up to sit straight and tall in the spine and uncross your legs. Repeat with left ankle over your right thigh.
Cross legs twist
Sitting in a chair, cross your right thigh over the left. Make sure both sit bones are still evenly rooting into the chair and sit up tall. Twist to the right bringing your left hand to your right thigh and the right hand to the back of the chair. Hold for 3 breaths and return to center. Change the crossing of the legs and twist to the left.
Same alignment as above. Try to incorporate this squat into your daily life. For instance, if you have your phone plugged in to charge and resting on the floor, come into this squat while you check your email or answer a text. If you are looking for something on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, drop down into this squat while you’re searching.
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