HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE

 Hamstrings

 

Hip And Hamstring Flexibility

Why Is Hip Mobility Important?

Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. It may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our daily lives. How many times have you heard someone say “I can’t even touch my toes anymore!” Or maybe you have said this yourself. Now, touching our toes does not define our worth; the awareness of this limitation and tension in this area of the body simply provides opportunities for us to investigate. Too often, this investigation leads to repeatedly stretching the area in order to lengthen and hopefully release the tightness. However, continuously stretching hamstrings will not likely provide us with the flexibility we desire and may actually cause further tension, pain, or injury to hamstrings and other areas in our bodies. In order to increase flexibility while maintaining the health of the muscles, we must incorporate a technique called facilitated stretching.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

WHAT EXACTLY IS MUSCLE TIGHTNESS?

First let’s discuss why muscles become tight. Muscle tightness results from an increase in tension through active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles can become shortened through postural adaptation- think sitting or walking in high heels all day- or through injury and scarring. Actively, muscles can become shorter due to spasm or contraction. Regardless of the cause, tightness limits range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance.

Page, Phil. “Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 7,1 (2012)

What is facilitated stretching, and how can we utilize it to increase flexibility in our hamstrings?  

What Is A Facilitated Stretch?

This occurs when we activate, or contract, the same muscle(s) we are stretching.  There are two types of muscle contractions- isotonic and isometric. “An isotonic contraction is a voluntary muscle contraction that causes movement … An isometric contraction is a voluntary contraction in which no movement occurs.”

Charland, Jeff & McAtee, Robert E., Facilitated Stretching Fourth Edition, 2014

The latter is the action we adopt in a facilitated stretch. This is important because this is how we maintain the health and integrity of the muscle. If we don’t engage our muscles, eventually they might lose their ability to contract. Losing this ability can lead to imbalances in our bodies; when these imbalances are significant, we can experience a decrease in range of motion. This decrease can lead to injury or chronic pain.

 

 

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IMPLEMENT FACILITATED STRETCHING

How can we cultivate this in our practice?

One of the best ways to incorporate facilitated stretching into our practice is to go slowly and to utilize props that will support the process. In the video below, Matt demonstrates the use of a facilitated stretch in forward fold, using a chair. He breaks it down into four digestible actions.

4 Actions to Utilize Facilitated Stretch in Forward Fold

  1. Lean forward into the big toes.
  2. Press the back of hamstrings apart.
  3. Move sit bones up to the sky (will pull up on the hamstring and start to straighten the knees).
  4. Move sit bones down toward the heels, but don’t move your pelvis.

 

STRATEGY FOR HEALTHY HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY

You may also enjoy the original blog paired with this video, called “Avoid the Yoga Butt”

Suggested Immersion: Hips and Hamstrings: 12-Class Immersion

WHAT IS PNF?

Facilitating these actions may also be referred to as PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation).  

“Multiple studies have shown that PNF stretching is superior to traditional static stretching in terms of improving active and passive range of motion. It can be used to supplement daily, static stretching and has been shown to help athletes improve performance and make speedy gains in range of motion. Not only does it increase flexibility, but it can also improve muscular strength. What’s more, PNF stretching is believed to repair the microscopic damage that typically follows a high-intensity workout.”

Wicke J, Gainey K, and Figueroa M. A comparison of self-administered proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to static stretching on range of motion and flexibility. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(1): 168–172.

Sharman MJ, Cresswell AG, Riek S. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching: Mechanisms and clinical implications. Sports Medicine. 2006; 36(11): 929-39.

All that being said, it’s important to also consider the amount of activation we utilize. It’s recommended that we only engage roughly between 15% – 20%. We want to stay on the side of a more conservative amount of force so as not to channel too much force to the joints, thus minimizing injury.   

To more fully understand this, click here for Matt’s 12-class immersion

Hips & Hamstrings, which took place in June 2021. To help you explore and uncover the strength in your own body, Matt’s new 12-class immersion, Strength, starts in October. Sign up today for lifetime access.

Written by Trish Curling

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

Continue Learning

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HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE Hamstrings   Hip And Hamstring Flexibility Why Is Hip Mobility Important? Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. It may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our...

read more
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full side plank and modifications

FULL SIDE PLANK WITH MODIFICATIONS

STEP-BY-STEP VASHISTHASANA BREAKDOWN

FULL SIDE PLANK

FULL SIDE PLANK AND MODIFICATIONS: VASHISTHASANA

USING THE WALL AS A PROP

Full Side Plank (Vashisthasana) has many modification options and variations to help make it more accessible or more challenging. I love teaching this posture with a foot on the wall to increase stability and provide a frame of reference for shifting the weight out of the hand and into the foot. 

Some people avoid props, thinking of them as a “crutch.” For sure, they can be used as a way to avoid challenges if that is your intention, but they can also be used to increase body awareness and help you develop technique. Props are neither good nor bad; it’s just a matter of how and why you are using them. Is it that you want to avoid challenge or that you want to face challenge intelligently and appropriately?

In the video tutorial below, I show how to modify side plank by placing your top foot on the wall. This reduces the required balance and will allow you to focus on the foundations of the posture, like the strength of your hand and wrist. Press your thumb and pinky fingers into the ground. Then focus on your bottom foot, pressing the instep of your foot into the wall. Eventually, you will be able to place the whole standing foot on the ground, which will give you strength and the power to lift the hips up. Lastly, keep your shoulder externally rotating, as indicated in the video.

Arm Balances Online Yoga Classes

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Full Side Plank & Modifications • Vashisthasana at the Wall

This Side Plank tutorial footage is taken from the July 2021 Immersion, titled BALANCE

Full Side Plank Setup

What I don’t discuss in this particular clip is how the setup of this posture is exactly like Wild Thing. This means your pelvis is more open toward the sky, while in standard Side Plank, your feet are stacked. The spine is in a backbend as well, unlike the standard variation, where the spine is neutral.

There are other alignments you could explore, but these will tend to give you the greatest access to the full Side Plank variation where you grab the top foot and extend the leg. If you want to practice the full class, be sure to check out Class #9 of the July 2021 Immersion, called Balance

 

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300 HOUR ONLINE TEACHER TRAINING

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Three Full Side Plank Modifications and Variations

  1. Foot on the Wall: Once you rise up into Wild Thing, place the back foot on the wall and push your weight toward the wall, even if it means both knees are bent. This is not only okay but an indication that you are doing it properly.
  2. Tree Pose: The next step is infinitely more challenging because it requires greater balance and flexibility. Take the foot off the wall, similar to Tree Pose but without placing the foot on your inner thigh (though that is also another variation). I suggest pushing your knee into your hand to get your hip flexors active. Hip flexor strength becomes key when you attempt to straighten the leg. Often the tension of the hamstrings is too much and people have to let go of the foot. If your hip flexors are strong and used to engaging in this position, then they can help out by keeping the top leg closer to your upper body, lessening the chances that you’ll have to let go of the foot when extending the leg up to the sky.
  3. Full Side Plank or “Extended Vashisthasana”: Pull your knee in as tight as possible in order to grab your foot. Either stay as a modification or begin to kick the foot to the sky, straightening the top leg. Pro tip: It’s helpful to keep the bottom, weight-bearing leg bent while extending the top leg upward. 
Arm Balances Online Yoga Classes

VITALITY: RIGOR & RELEASE

Get back to feeling energized and alive with 12 all-levels vinyasa & meditation classes to increase your energy, focus, and mental clarity.

 

  • GET BACK TO FEELING ENERGIZED
  • ALL-LEVELS VINYASA CLASSES
  • HIPS, TWISTS, HEART, SHOULDERS, NECK, AND CORE
  • GUIDED MEDITATIONS TO DE-STRESS, INCREASE FOCUS, AND GAIN MENTAL CLARITY

Can’t Straighten Your Legs?

This is normal and really shouldn’t be your focus. This is an incredibly physically demanding posture that requires extreme flexibility. Even with slightly bent knees, the posture is still visually stunning and, I would argue, even more biomechanically sound because bent knees typically trigger more muscle engagement.

 

 

Edited by 300-hour Chromatic yoga teacher, Donna Morin.

 

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Arm Balances

ARM BALANCES

Learn 12+ arm balances while expanding your knowledge of the body and increasing your body awareness. All classes are 75 minutes and ALL-levels appropriate 

  • Crow Pose, Side Crow, and variations
  • Flying Pigeon, Koundinyasana 1 & 2
  • Titibasana, Bhujapidasana
  • Handstand, Forearm Stand, and many more!

 

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reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

REVERSE WARRIOR INCREASE BACK FLEXIBILITY WITH THIS PARTICULAR ALIGNMENTREVERSE WARRIORREVERSE WARRIOR: PREPARE FOR BACKBENDSFull expansion, widespread freedom, release, and openness -- this might describe what we feel as yogis when it comes to the shape of a backbend...

read more
Deeper Forward Folds with TFL Technique

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TECHNIQUE FOR DEEPER FORWARD FOLDS ACTIVATE TFL & RECTUS FEMORIS TO INCREASE HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITYFORWARD FOLDSDEEPER FORWARD FOLDS: PRASARITA PADOTTANASANAIt’s not unusual to feel “stuck” in our yoga practice at times. We may come to a place in our physical...

read more
side crow tutorial

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SIDE CROW: POSE TUTORIAL UNLOCK YOUR ARM BALANCE PRACTICESIDE CROWSIDE CROW: POSE TUTORIALSide Crow is a challenging yoga posture but is more accessible than most people think. There are ways of “cheating” the posture that can make the shape more attainable such as...

read more
HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE Hamstrings   Hip And Hamstring Flexibility Why Is Hip Mobility Important? Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. It may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our...

read more
Yoga Jump Backs and Jump Forwards

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YOGA JUMP BACKS & JUMP FORWARDS  THE DREAMY, MYSTICAL FLOATSIDE ANGLEdreamy yoga jump backs and jump forwardsWe’ve all seen those yoga teachers and/or practitioners who float through the transitions of jumping back from Uttanasana to Chaturanga and/or jumping...

read more
Side Angle Self Adjustment for Hip Strength

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SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE  ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINSSIDE ANGLESELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE -- ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS Glute gains! Who doesn’t want those, right? When we think about glute gains though, our minds may go...

read more

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Triangle Pose: Trick to Avoid Hip Impingement

Triangle Pose

Avoid Hip Impingement & Increase Your Range of Motion

Triangle Pose

Triangle pose is an iconic posture in yoga that has tremendous benefits for increasing hip range of motion by creating more flexibility of the hamstrings and adductors (inner thigh muscles). There are several potential strength benefits that triangle pose has to offer, however, it requires an intentional activation of our muscles and they likely won’t engage on their own. In the video and photo breakdown below, I go over my favorite muscle activations for triangle pose. From my experience in practicing triangle pose with teachers across the world, I have heard these verbal alignment cues more often than not: “Square your pelvis to the sidewall, tuck your tail bone, and place your hand on your shin, block, or ground.” When I practice, I try to really do what the teacher asks, but every time I tried this I noticed an immediate pain in my hip that I never get when I approach triangle pose on my own or coming from a posture like side angle pose. I also noticed that if I maintain these alignment cues, my hand only goes to my shin at best unless I fall into a deep side bend. Knowing the anatomy of the hip, I assumed that this alignment increased the potential compression at the hip joint, and maybe caused the soft tissue to be pinched. I decided to do some research on Hip FAI (femoral acetabular impingement) or hip impingement.

The Research

After much research on Hip FAI (femoral acetabular impingement), I was hoping to bring you conclusive data on how yoga could cause or help hip impingement, however, the current research on yoga specifically is minimal and mostly all over the place. It is commonly agreed that range of motion and proper strength training can help prevent hip impingement. It is also commonly agreed that many athletic sports could be the cause of it, as well as childhood development of the bones and joints. There is however an interesting study that showed increased impingement and stress on the hip joint in dancers when performing specific dance positions which include external rotation and posterior titled pelvis. The research doesn’t mention these specific structural alignments, however, being the husband of a dancer raised on ballet I was able to confirm my suspicion about these pelvis and femur bone alignments. In ballet you are asked to keep the low back long which is a posterior tilt of the pelvis – often cued as “tuck your tail” in yoga classes. One pose in the research article stood out to me: développé à la seconde, which is essentially standing triangle pose or Utthita Hasta Pandangusthasana B. The photo of my good friend Beau Campbell (@theyogarina) to the right (below on mobile) shows the posture in the study. Food for thought: If this posture is creating compression at the hip, what happens when you add the weight of gravity as we do in triangle pose. 

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

What is Hip Impingement 

Hip impingement is the result of increased friction or damage of the soft tissue that makes up the hip joint. The hip joint is where the thigh bone and pelvis connect. It is a ball and socket joint – the head of the femur (thigh bone) is a round “ball” and the pelvis has a “socket” that receives it. There are soft tissues that cover and surround the bones so that the joint becomes slippery and smooth. Articular cartilage covers the two bones, and the labrum is like a gasket that forms a tight seal around the joint. When these soft tissues become inflamed, irritated, or damaged it is referred to as hip impingement. Some Hip impingements are the result of the way our bones were formed growing up, and others could be the result of repetitive high impact exercises or sports. A healthy hip joint is one where there is no wear and tear of the soft tissues.

Are there other Kinds of hip injuries?

Hip impingement is not the only kind of injury around the hip area. The hip is surrounded by ligaments, muscles, fascia, and nerves that can all become injured due to stress, strain, or structural miss-alignments. Just because you have hip pain does not mean you have an impinged hip. We are also coming to realize that not all physical pain exists in the body, but can also be stemming from mental or emotional trauma. What should you do if you have hip pain? Don’t freak out- see a specialist to assess where the pain is stemming from so you can take proper action to support your health. It could be a pulled muscle, or as simple as a muscle that is hyperactive and causing a myriad of issues. Physical therapy, Acupuncture, and Massage are all great healing modalities to try.

ONLINE TEACHER TRAININGS

 

GET CERTIFIED AT THE 200 OR 500 HOUR LEVELS

  • 200 Hour Training: Get certified to teach yoga
  • 300 Hour Training: Take your certification to the 500 hour level
  • Recognized globally by Yoga Alliance 
  • Take your practice to the next level
  • All levels, ages, and experience welcomed

4 Steps TO ENTER TRIANGLE POSE 

 

Step 1 - Internal rotation

Rotate the back foot, thigh bone, and pelvis inward toward the front leg. No need to overdo this like you would when trying to square the hips in a lunge pose. How much to turn in will depend on you and your structure so go slow and try various angles and observe what you feel. This will increase the amount of possible joint mobility, but tight hamstrings might still inhibit the range of motion.

Step 3: Glute Activation

From your front buttocks press down into your heel until you feel your pelvis starts to open back toward the sky (the opposite of step 1). Ideally, activating both gluteus Maximus and gluteus medius/minimus as you do so. This likely will all happen when you press down, but if your pelvis doesn’t rotate open and your outer hips don’t engage, try pressing your inner heel down and outward.

Step 2: bow at the pelvis

Flex (or bow) at the hip joint to bring your front hand to the block or the ground I personally avoid asking students to go to the shin as not to put more downward pressure into the front knee. Personally, I come to fingertips as it’s a bit easier than full palm and still grounded.  Press down into your hand for support and activation of your deep core – psoas muscles.

Step 4: Counter Action

Similar to step 1, we are trying to rotate the thigh and hip inward again, however, the major difference is that in step 4 it is simply an activation of the muscles, not an actual movement of the bones. Counteraction creates stability and also helps to prevent going too deep into the end range of motion which could bring you right back to impingement or just an overstretch of the adductors.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

The Adductors

The muscles along the inner thigh are referred to as the adductor group, and typically serve to bring the thigh bones toward the midline of the body, but they can also internally rotate the thighbones, extend them backward like the hamstrings (adductor magnus) and even externally rotate when in deep extension. The adductors also help to stabilize the pelvis.

Practicing Triangle

Is triangle a high-risk posture? Probably not on my list of postures to avoid, but depending on your body and how you approach it, it may have massive benefits or setbacks. The steps I have provided for you have helped me feel better in my triangle pose, and many students have felt the same. This doesn’t mean it will be best for you, so proceed with presence, observe what you feel as you practice, and go slow enough to be able to make choices. There are many more potential options of how to isometrically activate your muscles in postures like triangle. Should you want to learn more please check out the Hips: Rock Em and Unlock Em workshop below.  Leave a comment if this post has been helpful or if you have questions or requests for future posts.

ONLINE TEACHER TRAININGS

 

GET CERTIFIED AT THE 200 OR 500 HOUR LEVELS

  • 200 Hour Training: Get certified to teach yoga
  • 300 Hour Training: Take your certification to the 500 hour level
  • Recognized globally by Yoga Alliance 
  • Take your practice to the next level
  • All levels, ages, and experience welcomed

Continue Learning

reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

REVERSE WARRIOR INCREASE BACK FLEXIBILITY WITH THIS PARTICULAR ALIGNMENTREVERSE WARRIORREVERSE WARRIOR: PREPARE FOR BACKBENDSFull expansion, widespread freedom, release, and openness -- this might describe what we feel as yogis when it comes to the shape of a backbend...

read more
Deeper Forward Folds with TFL Technique

Deeper Forward Folds with TFL Technique

TECHNIQUE FOR DEEPER FORWARD FOLDS ACTIVATE TFL & RECTUS FEMORIS TO INCREASE HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITYFORWARD FOLDSDEEPER FORWARD FOLDS: PRASARITA PADOTTANASANAIt’s not unusual to feel “stuck” in our yoga practice at times. We may come to a place in our physical...

read more
side crow tutorial

side crow tutorial

SIDE CROW: POSE TUTORIAL UNLOCK YOUR ARM BALANCE PRACTICESIDE CROWSIDE CROW: POSE TUTORIALSide Crow is a challenging yoga posture but is more accessible than most people think. There are ways of “cheating” the posture that can make the shape more attainable such as...

read more
HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE Hamstrings   Hip And Hamstring Flexibility Why Is Hip Mobility Important? Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. It may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our...

read more
Yoga Jump Backs and Jump Forwards

Yoga Jump Backs and Jump Forwards

YOGA JUMP BACKS & JUMP FORWARDS  THE DREAMY, MYSTICAL FLOATSIDE ANGLEdreamy yoga jump backs and jump forwardsWe’ve all seen those yoga teachers and/or practitioners who float through the transitions of jumping back from Uttanasana to Chaturanga and/or jumping...

read more
Side Angle Self Adjustment for Hip Strength

Side Angle Self Adjustment for Hip Strength

SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE  ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINSSIDE ANGLESELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE -- ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS Glute gains! Who doesn’t want those, right? When we think about glute gains though, our minds may go...

read more

TOP RECOMMENDATIONS 

Handstand Training

Learn the techniques that make Handstand fun, easy and accessible! This 2 part course consists of the top most effective exercises will increase your strength and technique so you can easefully balance a handstand.

View Details

SHOULDER REVELATION

In this 12 class immersion  you will practice specific techniques to strengthen and unlock your shoulders. Each class focuses on a specific joint articulation and muscle group so you gain mastery in the shoulders.

View Details

HEART OPENERS

Finally, a 12 class immersion designed specifically to help you discover the freedom of heart openers. Learn how to avoid uncomfortable compression, and awaken your true range of motion in a step by step manner.

View Details

THE FREE TECHNIQUE PACK

When You Subscribe You Will Get Instant Access To

  • The Technique Pack: 15 Yoga Pose Breakdowns
  • Exclusive Online Course Discounts
  • Exclusive Blogs and Videos
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Contact Matt

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

find your seat

3 BEST SEATED MEDITATION POSTURES

Find Your Seat: 3 Ways to Sit without Knee, Hip or Back Pain!

Find Your Seat

Let’s go over the 3 best seated meditation postures and find out which one is right for you. The deep benefits of seated meditation are well known to have been experienced by many. On the other hand, people around the world find the practice to be inaccessible because they can’t sit comfortably for more than a minute. This is true for me, even to this day! No matter how open my hips are, or how strong my core and back are, if I try and sit on the ground for an extended period of time one of my legs will fall asleep or I will at the least just be uncomfortable. If you have the same experience, you will find these particular postures to be very supportive!

THE CHALLENGES

Why is it challenging to sit? There are a host of reasons why we might find it difficult to sit on the ground – perhaps primarily because we just don’t do it. Sitting in a chair does not allow our hips to go through their full range of motion each day and as a result, our back and hip flexors don’t develop the strength needed to keep us upright. Yoga can serve as an amazing practice to redevelop the capacity to sit more efficiently although it won’t happen overnight – which is why it’s necessary to check out the 3 postures in the video and photos below, so you can sit comfortably on the ground while you are working on the long term hip-opening journey.

Trying to re-pattern our body takes repetitive practice. As with any other skill, you can only learn from doing it. That is why I created a 12 class immersion to help you feel better, sit better, and establish a meditation practice. MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE helps you increase flexibility of the hips, strengthen your back muscles for better posture, teach you breathwork techniques, and gives you the tools for mental and emotional clarity and freedom. Meditation requires guidance just like yoga, and I guide you in all 12 classes so you feel safe, confident, and inspired with each practice.

MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE

12 Class Package for Yoga, Pranayama, and Meditation

  • Breathe better with pranayama “breathwork” exercises
  • Release Hip Tension with asana practice
  • Increase Flexibility & Strength
  • Increase Focus and Clarity
  • Decrease Stress
  • Unwind physical & Emotional Tension
  • Move more freely
  • Release low back tension through hip opening
  • 12 All Levels Live Asana Classes
  • Lifetime Unlimited Access to All  

Is Meditation Calming?

When Most people begin a meditation practice they expect it to have the results that everyone preaches; calm mind, relaxing, stress reducing. While some people do experience these results right away, others may experience the opposite. In weight lifting you must build a foundation of strength before you can move on to heavy compound movements, and establishing this foundation can at times be challenging and discouraging. Meditation is very much the same, the practice of it might feel like you are lifting heavy weights for your mind and as a result, you might initially only experience the challenge of it. With repetition, your mind will get stronger. You will be able to focus longer and the results will come faster!

On top of it, if you are physically uncomfortable when practicing meditation you are not likely to magically walk away feeling calmer. This is why it’s important to find a seat by selecting from one of the 3 best seated meditation postures.

VIDEO TO FIND YOUR SEAT

CHOOSE FROM THE 3 BEST SEATED MEDITATION POSTURES

Assess your hips

Each of us has our own movement patterns which cause some muscles to be stronger, some weaker, some are tight, some are not, etc. We also have different bone structures that will make some positions easier than others. Finding a comfortable seat is one of the most important aspects of a seated meditation posture. If you are uncomfortable, it is very hard to move the mind beyond the discomfort of the body. This is why I have provided three options for seated meditation postures. Go through each and ask yourself which one is most sustainable. Keep in mind there is no perfect seated posture for meditation, there is only the best one for you and that is the one you feel most comfortable in and that also allows you to stay awake and present.

“3 Best Seated Meditation Postures” Detailed Break Down

best seated meditation posture

Option 1 - Bhadrasana (Hero's Pose)

My personal favorite seated posture for those who have tighter outer hips and inner thighs as it requires little flexibility in these areas. It presents a challenge for those with tight quads and shin muscles. Using blankets and blocks can help alleviate these challenges. I would suggest warming up and stretching the thighs and ankles prior to working on this posture. In the above video, I go over a twisted thigh stretch and a seated posture on heels. If these postures prove to be too challenging after a warm-up, then this posture is likely to cause discomfort during a seated meditation.

best cross legged seated meditation posture

Option 2: Cross Legged

Sukhasana, the so-called “easy seat” – an ironic title, as it can be incredibly misleading. For those with open inner thighs, hip flexors, and outer hips this can be an easy posture indeed, but if that is not the case for you then you’ll definitely want to use props. Using the right amount of blankets and block support can make this posture easier and more accessible.

seated meditation posture on chair with props

Option 3: On Chair with Blocks

In the video I show a seated option call sidasana, however, I wanted to offer one other one here. Sitting in a chair can seem like cheating, as it can be incredibly easy to get too relaxed in it. Here you will notice how I prepare the chair with blocks and a blanket and I sit on the edge of the seat so that I still used my back and hip flexors to keep me upright. Some level of muscle engagement is important to stay awake and present when meditating.

MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE

12 Class Package for Yoga, Pranayama, and Meditation

  • Breathe better with pranayama “breathwork” exercises
  • Release Hip Tension with asana practice
  • Increase Flexibility & Strength
  • Increase Focus and Clarity
  • Decrease Stress
  • Unwind physical & Emotional Tension
  • Move more freely
  • Release low back tension through hip opening
  • 12 All Levels Live Asana Classes
  • Lifetime Unlimited Access to All  

How to Start Meditation

The best way to practice meditation, like anything else, is to have guidance. When I was younger, I struggled for years to meditate without the support of a teacher and mostly I became frustrated and lost in my thoughts. When I stumbled upon my teacher “Rudrani” she helped provide me with the tools and guidance to make meditation accessible and enjoyable. This is why I created the MOVE•BREATHE•RELEASE  to share with you the techniques that produce the intended results that so many talk about; peace of mind, inner freedom, focus, mental clarity, joy, equanimity, balance, etc.

From Body to Mind

One thing I noticed early on in my meditation practice was the discomfort of my body. I couldn’t focus my mind on anything when I was seated because I was distracted by my back, my knee, my neck, and so on. This realization led me to the physical practice of yoga. Through the yoga practice, I gained a heightened sense of awareness of my body. At first, this was almost a curse because I could feel everything – including my discomfort! Over time and practice, I gained a bit of mastery in my body, in that I could feel the discomfort and choose postures to better accommodate myself and release it. I suggest you choose from one of the 3 best seated meditation postures above and use it for now as your “go-to pose”. I also recommend you get to know the other two poses as well because you will find that on some days your “go-to” is just not the appropriate one for you.

The seated meditation practice became so much more enjoyable for me when I could extend my attention beyond the physical, knowing that I wasn’t causing damage by forcing myself to sit through knee or back pain. While I do believe that some pain in the body can be a result of mental projection, I also know firsthand that placing love and attention on the body can support the health of the mind.  There really isn’t a divide between brain and body – the mind is a collective of all our physical and emotional experiences. For sound mental health to be our primary state of being we must get to know ourselves on all levels and develop our awareness.

OTHER HELPFUL PRACTICES

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Avoid Hamstring Tendonitis “Yoga Butt”

YOGA STRETCH FOR HAMSTRINGS

HAMSTRING TENDONITIS:

AVOID HAMSTRING PAIN “YOGA BUTT”

HAMSTRINGS

A Different Approach To Stretching The Hamstrings

Stretching the hamstrings provides many benefits – including my personal favorite, low back relief! In the pursuit of flexibility, many of us accidentally go too far in our practice. It can be challenging to gauge where our limits are, and sometimes we reach them. Rather than feeling frustrated or ashamed about hurting yourself in yoga, just direct your attention to healing and maintaining health. In my early years as a yogi, I tore my hamstring attachment near the sit bone and with some diligence healed it up pretty quickly. However, I didn’t quite learn how to practice in a way that would maintain its integrity and as a result, I tore it once again. After my second tear I finally decided to find another way. In this video, I go over the techniques I use to maintain hamstring integrity at the sit bone attachment point (just under the gluteus Maximus, buttocks muscles). The idea is to become aware of the fact that most of us use gravity to stretch because quite simply it is easier to completely let go and not put in any effort. First I want to make the point that there is nothing wrong with passive stretching, and allowing gravity do the work for you. However, it is important to understand that the movement patterns in your body will only become stronger – whether they’re good or bad. Whenever you let your body do what it wants to do it will always default to patterns. Same is true with the mind, which is why meditation is such a powerful practice in re-wiring the patterns of our mind. Normally a thought arises and we react, neurons fire in a predetermined pattern, and this elicits a response in either a sequence of thoughts or actions. For example, someone in the middle of a city street raises their hand, your mind probably thinks “oh they are looking for a taxi.” This is how the mind holds patterns. The body holds patterns in the exact same way. If we simply stretch without activating muscles, we will perpetuate our patterns. If our patterns serve us then this is absolutely OK, but if they do not, then we could easily cause injury.

Facilitated Stretching For the Hamstrings

The approach I like for the majority of my practice is active engagement. This means finding the muscles that tend to be asleep and weak and activating them. This also includes something called facilitated stretching. This refers to the process of activating the muscle or muscle group that is stretching. So in the case of a forward fold where the hamstrings are stretching, a facilitated stretch would involve activating the hamstrings. This is not an easy task. Most of us are only familiar with activating a muscle in order to create movement, but what if we activate the muscles and do not move?  The benefit of this approach is that you do not have to sacrifice your flexibility while you re-pattern your body’s responses. Most people actually find a major increase of range of motion when using the facilitated stretch technique, because it “tricks” the muscle into a deep relaxation effect when you release the engagement – this is also known as PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation). For most people, this method is safer and more effective. The one thing to be mindful of is the amount of muscle activation you use. I suggest 15-30% engagement of the muscle that is stretching. If you engage muscles too strongly in a lengthened position you could transmit too much force to the joints, or run the risk of injuring parts of the muscle. Rather than intellectualizing what a facilitated stretch is, try practicing along with this video. If you are interested in practicing in this way, I highly recommend the workshop “Hips: Rock and Unlock ‘Em” as it is packed with this approach to flexibility. For a more in-depth study, check out the 12 class package called “The Breakthrough“.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

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Reciprocal Inhibition

When the muscle group on one side of the joint contracts, the opposing muscle group will relax. This happens naturally, but can be used as a technique for stretching.

 
beginner yoga hamstring stretch

Step 1 - Align Thigh Bones

Align the femur bones so they are vertical. There are many reasons for this. One reason is that the head of the femur (thigh bone) is most congruent in this position, meaning it has the most amount of space for the range of motion to occur. The other reason I do this is to put weight in the hands so that the leg muscles aren’t involuntarily engaging – kind of like starting from a blank canvas. Put more weight in your hands and you can bypass a lot of holding patterns that might exist. Lastly, by leaning forward two things will happen: you will lengthen the calf muscles, and later on when you place the hands on the ground, your calves will activate in order to stop you from falling forward. This becomes a facilitated stretch for the calves without you having to even think about it.

hamstring stretch with low back strength for chair yoga

Step 3: Lift Sit Bone

Lifting the sit bones requires two muscle groups to activate; hip flexors and low back muscles. The low back muscles (Q.L, the Erector group)  will arch the lumbar spine (low back) and pull the pelvis into anterior tilt (forward fold) which will lengthen the hamstrings upward away from where they attach at the back of the knees. The hip flexors will do the same with the added benefit of reciprocal inhibition (relaxing the hamstrings). This step, with hands on the chair, is what stretches the hamstrings without gravity. It is important to understand that you have a responsibility to observe the level of stretch sensation in the hamstrings while you do this. If your low back and hip flexors are strong you may overpower the hamstrings and cause an overstretch. For this reason, it is beneficial to only go about 60% of the way into the stretch sensation.

hamstring stretch with internal rotation of hips

Step 2: Internal Rotation

Pressing the backs of the legs apart will initiate internal rotation of the thigh bones. When moving into a forward fold, if the objective is to lengthen the hamstrings, it is incredibly helpful to rotate the thigh bones inward because it initiates the tip of the pelvis forward (anterior tilt). With this cue, the typical muscles that activate are the abductor group (gluteus medium, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia lattae, aka T.F.L). Activating the T.F.L, in particular, is helpful because it is also a hip flexor and internal rotator. Activating the hip flexors and internal rotator reciprocally inhibits the external rotators of the buttocks. Reciprocal Inhibition simply means when you activate a muscle group, the opposing muscle group relaxes and lengthens – this is the opposite concept of facilitated stretching.

chair yoga hamstring stretch

Step 4: Facilitated Stretch

Lastly, to maintain the integrity of the hamstrings we will want to activate them. The ability to engage a muscle regardless of the depth of stretch or length of the muscle is one way to determine the health of the muscle. If you simply work on flexibility but the muscle loses its ability to contract along the way, you run the risk of acute injury or chronic pain. The body is a system, which means that a loss of hamstring integrity could show up as chronic pain in the sacrum, low back, or even neck. Quite often in modern yoga, there is an emphasis on lengthening the hamstrings, and not much on strengthening them, this approach supports both and is why I practice this way and why I teach this method to flexibility. The action I call for in step 4 is to isometrically tuck your tailbone. That means to try to press the sit bones down toward the heels in order to activate the muscles, but maintain the structural alignment of the pelvis (anterior tilt)

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

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Many Methods

 

I personally have seen the massive benefits of facilitated stretching, as well as reciprocal inhibition in my practice and in my students over the last 10+ years. However, there are times where I find passive stretching or even holistic stretching (bouncing) to be more appropriate. Use this approach as one of many tools for yourself, learn it well, and observe the benefits and drawbacks, then you will be able to decide when it is appropriate for you and when it is best to go another way. If you have questions or something to share, please feel free to comment at the bottom of the page. Please share this post if you found it useful, and for a full practice using this approach, check out Hips: Rock and Unlock ‘Em

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reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

reverse warrior for better back bend flexibility

REVERSE WARRIOR INCREASE BACK FLEXIBILITY WITH THIS PARTICULAR ALIGNMENTREVERSE WARRIORREVERSE WARRIOR: PREPARE FOR BACKBENDSFull expansion, widespread freedom, release, and openness -- this might describe what we feel as yogis when it comes to the shape of a backbend...

read more
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read more
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read more
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yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes

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