Lotus Foundations

Lotus Foundations

padmasana

LOTUS FOUNDATIONS

Lotus Pose requires a healthy amount of hip flexibility. For some, it comes easy. Reasons for this might be that the person is hypermobile in the hips, knees, and ankles and/or that many months or years of effort have been put towards developing the capability in their bodies.  

If we push our limits to get into Lotus before our bodies are prepared, we can cause injuries that might have been prevented had we properly warmed up for such a deep posture. Implementing a “take a step back” mentality is key in moving our potential forward in the accessibility of Lotus.

Warming up doesn’t mean going straight into stretching and lengthening as much as possible. What we’ll see Matt demonstrate today is the importance of strengthening and contracting the muscles first.

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  • Postural focus: Flying Pigeon and Lotus Pose
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STRENGTHEN THE EXTERNAL ROTATORS

Homing in on the foundations is the “step back”; it’s like pulling an elastic band as far back as we can before we let it go. The farther back we pull, the further forward it will fly.

In the video, Matt demonstrates two variations of Baddha Konasana to get us started.  

Variation I

This will activate the external rotators of the hip. Getting into the posture requires widening the knees and bringing the soles of the feet together. Pressing the feet down while lifting the hips initiates the engagement of the external rotators so that we can access maximum external rotation of the hips.

Variation II

This time, we internally rotate the legs and take the feet wider than the knees to do the lift. These actions will support the engagement of the tensor fasciae latae (TFL, an internal rotator) but will also continue to activate the external rotators.

WATCH THE VIDEO

LOTUS FOUNDATIONS: HOW TO MAXIMIZE HIP FLEXIBILITY

TARGET THE HIP FLEXORS

Targeting the muscles of the full circumference of the hips is essential when preparing for Lotus. Matt demonstrates 2 effective drills/postures to target the hip flexors.

Scissor Legs

Scissoring the legs will help us connect with the sensation of activating the hip flexors, but it’s the pulsing of the legs that builds more heat and stimulation of the muscles.

Happy Baby Pose Without Hands

Once again, we are in deep hip flexion, but it’s about more than just drawing the legs in close. Being intentional about actively pulling the feet in, as if we were holding them with our hands, while pushing the knees out is what produces the activation of the adductor muscles.

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ISOMETRIC ENGAGEMENTS

One notable benefit of isometric exercises is that they help to recruit many muscle fibers at once.  “Most muscle strengthening exercises involve moving the joints, using the muscles to push or pull against resistance. However, isometric exercises involve holding static positions for long periods of time.”

Kandola, Aaron. 5 Isometric Exercises For People To Try. Medical News Today, June 26, 2023

This form of muscle contraction is commonplace in Matt’s classes.  In the video, he teaches us how to effectively use this type of engagement in the following postures when preparing for Lotus:

Crescent Pose Preparation

The action of drawing both feet towards one another and pressing down through the front heel will assist in activating the glutes and hamstrings of the front leg, while activating the hip flexors of the back leg.

Humble Warrior 

Pressing the sole of the back foot down and dragging it forward while pressing down through the heel of the front foot will assist in activating the back adductors and gluteus muscles.

Pigeon Pose

Pulling the two knees towards one another isometrically in the stretched position will help to activate the glute and hamstring muscles of the front leg and hip flexors and adductors of the back leg.

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AWAKEN THE OUTER HIP MUSCLES

Finally, we look at the outer hip muscles.  In a Forward Fold position, we push the back of the legs outwards.  This will ignite the gluteus medius and minimus.  We can layer on TFL activation by lifting each leg and pulling it forward to tap the back of each respective wrist.

Today’s postures may be part of a typical physical practice, but when we “dial back” and implement the actions that will strengthen and arouse the activation of the hip muscles, we can be more confident in moving towards greater flexibility and mobility to safely experiment with Lotus pose.

Matt’s upcoming workshop Hip Release will guide you towards a better understanding of how to maximize flexibility, strength, and mobility of the hips.

Register here to optimize your potential.

See you on the mat!

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Article by Trish Curling

Videos Extracted From: Lotus Immersion

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Eagle Pose technique how to double wrap the legs

GARUDASANA – EAGLE POSE

How to Double Wrap the Legs

Eagle Pose

GARUDASANA – EAGLE POSE

Why is it hard to double wrap the leg?

Garudasana, known as Eagle Pose, is a challenging hip opener and hip strengthener. It’s useful in developing balance, but for many people, double wrapping the leg is not accessible. For sure, some people have no trouble at all, but others are completely perplexed.

There are three reasons why it would be challenging for you or your students to double wrap:

 

  1. Lack of flexibility of the abductor muscles (outer hip muscles). These are the muscles that are lengthened when we cross our legs.
  2. Lack of strength of the standing hip abductor muscles. This is a bit confusing unless you watch the video below. The standing hip abductors help to elevate the opposite side of the pelvis, making it more possible to cross the top leg over the bottom leg.
  3. Lack of technique and timing. In most cases, if you are not applying deliberate technique while moving into a pose, you will be entering the pose the hard way, which means you will only be able to do the postures that match your set of physical muscular patterns. This is a disservice, not because you will miss out on the poses but because you will miss out on the opportunity to change your muscle patterns. In the video below, you will see the timing and techniques for getting into Eagle Pose with double-wrapped legs.
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  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
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How to Increase Flexibility of the Abductors — Outer Hips

If flexibility is inhibiting you from accessing Garudasana and you want to find ways to access your greater range of motion of the outer hip muscles, there are a couple postures you can work with. Any posture that includes crisscrossed legs will be useful and effective in increasing abductor flexibility. Although there aren’t many traditional postures, aside from Eagle Pose itself, one that comes to mind is Gomukhasana, Cow-Faced Pose. However, I would say that Eagle Pose should usually precede Gomukhasana because Eagle Pose requires less flexibility. The posture that I use in the Hips and Hamstrings immersion to prepare for Eagle is a straight single-leg forward fold with crisscrossed legs.

 

How to Get into the Straight-Leg Crisscrossed Forward Fold

  1. Start in Lunge Pose with your right foot forward.
  2. Heel-toe (move) your right foot to the left side of the mat.
  3. Step your back left foot to the right side of the mat so that both legs are crisscrossed.
  4. I suggest using block under both hands prior to the last step.
  5. Straighten your legs to a degree where you are stretching without strain.

IMPORTANT KEY ACTION: Wag your tail bone to the left to increase the stretch along the outer hip and IT band. If that’s too intense, wag your tail to the right to decrease the outer-hip stretch.

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WHY LACK OF ABDUCTOR STRENGTH HOLDS YOU BACK IN EAGLE POSE

Strength of the abductor group (outer hip muscles) is super important for two reasons. First, the standing hip abductors are what lift the opposite side of your pelvis, which allows you to cross your top leg over. Second, without outer hip strength on the standing leg, you would struggle to balance the pose! Outer hip muscles play a major role in balancing any single leg pose. If you find it challenging to balance Garudasana, then you will want to start with a strength-training routine for the abductors. We focus in on strengthening these muscles in the Hips and Hamstrings Immersion

FREE VIDEO TUTORIAL: HOW TO DOUBLE WRAP LEGS IN GARUDASANA, EAGLE POSE

This video clip was taken from Class #3 in the  Hips and Hamstrings: 12 Class Immersion

HOW TO DOUBLE WRAP THE LEGS

 

    Notice in the video that I am focused on squeezing the outer standing hip inward and lifting the opposite side of the pelvis upward as a result. This allows the thigh bone to more easily cross the midline of the body. You will also notice that my thighs are significantly rotated inward; this helps to access the wrapping of the legs as well. In the class leading up to this tutorial, we used a wall to eliminate the necessity to balance while working with these actions. In this video, I joke about the use of a wall, but I highly recommend you try it that way.
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HOW DO I INCREASE FLEXIBILITY OF MY HIPS FOR OTHER YOGA POSTURES?

The easy answer to this is to practice in such a way that you are deliberately strengthening each muscle group around the hips. To learn more about what muscle groups are involved in hip opening, check out the article I wrote on The 4 Quadrants of The Hips, where I share my methodology and approach for my personal practice and in my teaching. Once you understand which muscles surround the hip joints, the next step is to begin strengthening each muscle group. Strengthening one muscle group through range of motion will increase the flexibility of the opposing muscle group. This is the magic of an educated and deliberate practice — we take the guesswork out, and efforts are more effective in achieving intended results.

To increase your strength and flexibility of the hips, you can join the Hips and Hamstrings Immersion,which will take you through twelve 75-minute online yoga classes, each focused on a different pose and the relevant muscle group(s). I take you through creative ways of strengthening, then I provide you with effective techniques for stretching and accessing various yoga postures.

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

HIPS & 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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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. 

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HIPS & HAMSTRINGS

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • 12 classes to increase flexibility of the hips and hamstrings
  • Maximize your strength through range of motion
  • Access your pose potential
  • Release tension of hips and back
  • Sensation-based practices
  • Unlock and strengthen major muscle groups
  • Active, passive, and isometric stretching
  • Improve mobility and stability
  • So much more!

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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.

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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 & HAMSTRINGS

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • 12 classes to increase flexibility of the hips and hamstrings
  • Maximize your strength through range of motion
  • Access your pose potential
  • Release tension of hips and back
  • Sensation-based practices
  • Unlock and strengthen major muscle groups
  • Active, passive, and isometric stretching
  • Improve mobility and stability
  • So much more!

$148.00 $128.00

MORE INFORMATION

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

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  • 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

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