5 Yoga Poses to Open Up the Hips

Tight hips are one of the most common conditions in the Western Culture. This is due in large part to the fact that we sit in chairs for long periods of time, and because we generally do not sit in hip opening positions like a squat very often, if ever.

5 Yoga Poses to Open Up the Hips
5 Yoga Poses to Open Up the Hips

Tight hips can lead to a whole host of issues like lower back pain, misalignments in the spine, and can even lead to injury. The hip joints are actually very unique joints, known as ball and socket joints. This allows for a much greater range of motion than say the elbow joint or the knee joint.

That is why you need to open the front, back and sides of your hips to really get a good stretch. Here are my five favorite hip opening postures. I recommend that you warm up a little, and then hold each stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.

1. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Low lunge is one of the best postures you can do to open the front of your hips. This posture effectively reverses the normal position of the hips when you are sitting in a chair, which is exactly what most of us need, especially if you work in an office environment.

Begin in a normal lunge position, and then slowly lower your back knee to the ground. From here, you can push your hips forward to the degree that feels good for you.

Breathe and hang out, then practice on the other side.

2. Half King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Half King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Half King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

I can understand if you have a love/hate relationship with this posture. It can be very intense, and it can actually be dangerous for the knee if you do not have great alignment.

The best advice I can offer for this one is to start in Downward Facing Dog, and step one leg through to a lunge. Then, draw the front foot to the opposite long side of your mat, and place the outside of the foot on the mat, slowly lowering the rest of the leg down with your knee bent.

Then bring your heel in close to your opposite hip joint. Make sure to keep tension in the front foot, as this will protect your knee. Play around with moving your shin farther from your hips, but just be sure you are always keeping your foot tense.

3. Frog Pose (Bhekasana)

Frog Pose (Bhekasana)
Frog Pose (Bhekasana)

This is a great posture to help open up the inner groin/hip region. My favorite way to enter this posture is to start on hands and knees. Then slowly draw your knees away from one another, keeping your shins in line with your knees (rather than allowing your feet to draw in towards one another) as you lower your hips down towards the floor.

Keep your hips in line with your knees, rather than allowing them to move back towards your feet. Continue to move your knees farther away from one another.

Rest on your forearms, or all the way down on the mat if you can get there. Go slow with this one and allow your body to open in its own time.

4. Garland Pose (Malasana)

Garland Pose (Malasana)
Garland Pose (Malasana)

This is the king position for opening your hips and lower back. Start with your feet hip distance apart, or even slightly wider. Allow your feet to turn out 30 degrees or so if you are new to squatting.

Lower your body down, as though you were going to sit on a very small stool. You can extend your arms straight in front of you if you find it difficult to balance.

As you practice this posture, work to move your feet so that they are pointing straight out in front of you.

You can also play with bringing the feet in closer to one another as you progress. This pose has a million and a half benefits and will change your life if you practice it often!

5. Bound Angle Pose (Bhaddha Konasana)

Bound Angle Pose (Bhaddha Konasana)
Bound Angle Pose (Bhaddha Konasana)

This is a great posture to practice while you sit and watch TV or even while reading a book. Sit tall on your mat, then draw your knees up, placing your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches from your bottom.

Bring your feet together, as you allow your knees to drop to the side. Connect the soles of your feet. Inhale as you lengthen your spine once more. Then slowly move your heels in towards your groin, opening the inner hips.

You can also lean your chest forward towards your feet if you like, just be sure to maintain length in your spine.

Having supple, open hips will not only help you to avoid hip and back pain as you age, it can also help you to avoid hurting yourself in everyday life. Having a nice range of motion means that you will be so much less likely to really injure yourself if you fall, which is so important!

By Ali Washington
http://www.doyouyoga.com/5-yoga-poses-open-hips/

 

 

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Why Do My Wrists Hurt in Downward-Facing Dog?

There could be several reasons why your wrists are not feeling so hot in Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), but more than likely, it comes down to weight distribution and team work.
Downward-Dog-733x440
When you’re newer to the practice, Downward-Facing Dog looks like a pose where you are holding yourself up with your arms only. Actually, there’s more to it than that.

When all the players—your legs, hips, back, arms, and shoulders—actively participate, there is actually minimal amount of weight on your wrists in this pose, and it can actually feel like a place where you can hang out comfortably for several breaths.

Resting Pose? Really?

In the early years of my practice, I found it particularly annoying that many of my teachers would call Downward-Facing Dog a restful pose. I would feel anything but rested in the pose.

My shoulders tensed, my arms shook with effort, and my wrists ached almost every time I moved to it from Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) or Cobra (Bhujangasana). Down Dog was a crappy place for me to be, but since it was a popular pose I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid it.

So I practiced more and listened to teachers’ takes on how to align in the pose, so I could feel it out on my own. I knew there had to be a way this pose would be comfortable.

Let There Be Light for Your Dog!

Truth be told, I’m still working to find my most strengthening and vibrant Downward-Facing Dog, but I’ve come a long way from the discomfort of my early years. And there are a few tricks I’ve learned and been taught to help ease the pressure off the wrists in this pose.

Try these out on the mat next time, and may your Down Dogs feel light and happy!

1. Shift the weight off the wrists toward the legs.

You can take weight off your wrists by bending your knees generously and pressing your hips further back until your hands feel a little lighter. It’ll look like you’re crouching. Keep the weight shifting towards your legs as you lift your butt up and gradually straighten the legs, without locking the knees.

Your heels don’t have to be flat against the mat, but do try to keep the front of your pelvis tilted forward and tailbone moving away from the top of the spine to elongate your back (big plus!).

2. Ground the pose by firming the legs.

Your heels should be directly behind the widest part of your foot so that you do not see them when you gaze between your legs. Hug your shins in toward each other as though you were trying to squeeze a block between them. This will encourage a slight inward rotation through the legs.

Firm your outer thighs in a slight external rotation and lift your knee caps upward as you press your quadriceps back. Don’t lock your knees! It’ll feel as though someone is gripping you by the hips and pulling back.

3. Create space for your chest and shoulders by firming the outer arms.

Firming the outer arms and wrapping your triceps toward the floor (i.e. external rotation) creates room for your front body and shoulders. It will feel like you’re trying to screw the cap off of jar, counterclockwise, but your hands will stay grounded on the floor.

This helps broaden your collarbones and reduce tension around the shoulders. Let you ears line up with your arms.

4. Energize your upper body by activating your hands.

Engaging your hands, even your fingertips and the bases of your fingers, works to energize your upper body. Imagine your hands like suction cups as you try to distribute the weight evenly throughout. Ground the thumbs and index fingers.

Your hands should be rooted but not completely flat against the floor, so the center of your palm can lift; this engages what some of my teachers call Hasta Bandha, or a hand lock.

by Zainab Zakari
http://www.doyouyoga.com/why-do-my-wrists-hurt-in-downward-facing-dog/

 

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How to Use Mala Beads for Yoga and Meditation

by Jacqueline Medalye
If you practice yoga or meditation regularly, you may want to consider using mala beads as a meditation aid. Mala beads are a strand of 108 beads used for keeping count during mantra meditations. Malas can also be made of 27 beads or 21 beads for use in shorter meditations. Malas can be used during meditation, they can be made from gemstones that match the intention of your practice, and often malas are placed in shrines as a reminder of affirmations. Malas are also referred to as mala beads, Buddhist beads or Buddhist prayer beads. Mala beads have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries and the traditional Rudraksha mala dates back to the 10th century.

How to Use a Mala

Using a mala is simple, easy, and enjoyable. In the beginning, you should clarify the intention of your practice and choose your mantra or affirmation. Then, find a comfortable space and sit quietly in a cross legged position. Close your eyes and observe the speed and depth of your natural breath. Begin to breathe deeply and bring your focus and attention onto your mantra or affirmation. Next, hang the first mala bead gently on the middle or ring finger of your right hand. Place your thumb on the guru bead and begin reciting your mantra. At the end of the mantra push the mala bead away with your thumb and move onto the next bead for another round. Continue until you reach a count on 7, 21, 27, or 108. If you wish to do another round of mantras or affirmations, do not skip over the guru bead. Instead, turn the mala around and move in the opposite direction.

Types and Styles

Malas are always made with round beads. These beads are usually 7-8mm in size or 10mm, and their shape allows them glide easily through your fingers. Traditional malas are made with Rudraksha beads, lotus seed beads, yak bone, Bodhi seeds, or wood. Healing malas are made from gemstones, which have different energies, properties, and colors. For example, there are many malas that are made from black onyx, turquoise, rose quartz, or jade. Less common are malas made from round glass beads or glass crystal, and often these malas are used for color therapy.

There are several mala styles. Some malas are made with only 108 beads, a guru, and a tassel. Others have markers at 7 and/or 21 which make the piece useable in shorter mantra meditations. Some malas look like necklaces and have 108 mala beads with only a guru. All 108 mala beads can be worn as necklaces or as wrapped bracelets, and many Western practitioners wear their malas when they are off the mat to remind them of their yoga practice. There are also mala bracelets which can be made from 21 or 27 beads for shorter meditations and these malas are often worn as bracelets off the mat.

Choosing Mala Beads

When choosing a mala, use your intuition first. If a mala appeals to you, it will be the right mala for you at this time. You can also choose a mala based on the intention of your yoga practice. For example, if you feel that you need more grounding and centering on and off the mat, choose a mala made from agate which is a grounding stone. You can also choose a mala based on its color. If you like the color it is more likely that you will find the opportunity to wear your mala, keep it near you throughout the day, or be happy to see it in your shrine. You can choose a mala based on color if you are also working on your chakras. For example, if you are working on opening your throat chakra, a mala made from blue stones such as turquoise would be perfect, because this stone and color are both excellent for opening the throat chakra. When buying a mala made from gemstones for healing or chakra therapy, make sure that the mala maker uses a gemstone reference guide.

Quality Mala Beads

Your mala should last a long time. A mala that is high quality can withstand use on and off the mat. If you are buying a gemstone mala make sure the beads are of an A or B or C grade. You also want to make sure that the string that the mala is strung on is a premium thread or wire. The best wire is one that has passed a 30lb test. This means that the thread or wire can hold that much weight before being compromised. The method of knotting is also important to ensure that you piece lasts a long time. Sellers should stand behind their products, and they should be willing to restring your mala if it breaks. Finally, mala beads can be stored in a fabric bag when not in use. Fabrics that are natural are best, for example cotton, linen, silk, or velvet. Some sellers offer a mala bag with purchase others offer them for sale as a complimentary product.

Jacqueline Medalye is the designer and owner of Salt Spring Malas and Yoga Jewelry. She has been practicing yoga for 10 years.

See more at: http://www.gaiamtv.com/article/how-use-mala-beads-yoga-and-meditation?cid=soc%3Afacebook%3Amyo#sthash.3vj2JpEh.dpuf

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