How To Get In Your Stretch Zone

Most of us spend hours at a time sitting: working from a computer, driving to and from work, eating, and watching TV. All that time sitting adds up and leads to tight lower body muscles.


Tight hips and legs eventually lead to back issues and posture misalignment. Over time chronic pain can be the result.


Whether you currently practice yoga and want to challenge yourself, or you're looking for a deep stretch for the long muscles of your lower body, I can help!



Read below, if you want help learning the process of preparing your body for doing splits. Most adults have tight hip flexors and hamstrings, making this pose difficult to achieve. It can take weeks, months even to fully master the pose.


In this post, I'll explain how to safely get into the pose as well as provide daily challenges to help you learn how to warm up your lower body to prevent injury.


Let's get you in your stretch zone!


Let's Lunge Together


Lunges are great for stretching and strengthening the lower and upper body while creating stability and balance. The Crescent Lunge stretches the legs, groin, and hip flexors, while also opening the front torso, chest, and shoulders. Additionally, it strengthens and tones the thighs, hips, and butt, while the balancing aspect helps to develop flexible stability.


Here's how to get into position: https://youtu.be/zaongQlYTto


Expert Tip:

1. Work on getting the foot and leg placement

2. Set your feet, then adjust your legs. Then, align your hips.

3. Finally, lift your torso and extend your arms.


Modification:

1. If the High Lunge version is too difficult, bring your back knee to the mat and un-tuck your back toes.

2. To help improve balance, practice this pose facing a wall and press the big toe of your front foot against the wall. Reach your arms up and slightly forward, resting your fingertips on the wall.


I challenge you to do 3-5 rounds of lunges. Get that lower body strong!


Give Yourself A Challenge


This pose is a little more challenging. Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose is a yoga posture that stretches the backs of your legs while challenging your balance. It is a great preparatory pose for deeper hamstring stretches.


Here are the directions on how to get into this pose. Take your time and get the posture right:


1. Begin standing tall with your feet together and arms at your sides. Breathe deeply and draw your awareness to the present moment. Let your mind be calm.

2. Shift your weight to your left foot. Very slowly, draw your right knee up toward your chest. Bring your right arm to the inside of your right thigh. Then loop your index and middle fingers around your right foot's big toe. Place your left hand on your left hip.

3. Straighten your spine. Strongly engage your abdominal muscles and the muscles of your left leg. Straighten your left leg, but do not lock your knee.

4. On an exhalation, extend your right leg forward. Straighten your right leg as much as possible.

5. Keep both hips squared forward and keep your spine straight. Do not scrunch your neck or shoulders; keep them soft and relaxed.

6. Drop your right hip slightly, so it is in line with your left hip. Bring your awareness to your midline — the line that runs directly down the center of your body.

7. Hold for 5-20 breaths.

8. To release, draw your knee back into your chest, then slowly lower your foot to the floor. Come back to Mountain Pose. Then repeat on the opposite side for the same amount of time.


Modifications:

1. If you cannot reach the toes of your raised leg, practice Standing Knee Hug until you have gained more flexibility.

2. If you cannot straighten your lifted leg while keeping your spine straight, try using a strap instead of your fingers. Wrap a yoga strap around the ball of your foot. Hold the strap in your same-side hand and then straighten your leg.

3. To support the lifted leg as you gain strength and flexibility, rest your raised foot along the top edge of a chair, table, or ballet barre. You can also press the raised foot against a wall.


Add this move right after you do your 3-5 rounds of lunges.


Another Great Warm-Up


Standing split is another great warm-up posture to help you safely get into a split position! This pose works the whole backside of the body, particularly the hamstrings and calves. It strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles, and also stretches the groin muscles.


Here are your how-to instructions, don't be intimidated if you can't go as far as the instructor: https://youtu.be/cqZUJP9KNuc


Modifications:

1. To support the lifted leg as you gain strength and flexibility, rest your raised foot along the top edge of a chair, table, or ballet barre. You can also press the raised foot against a wall.


To help prepare the body for full splits, practice the pose against a wall:


1. Begin in Uttanasana with a wall about one foot behind you.

2. With your hands on the floor in front of you, extend your left leg up, resting the top of your foot on the wall. Gradually, the front of your raised leg will be able to rest along the wall.

3. As you hold the pose and gain flexibility, press firmly through your standing foot to extend your raised leg even further up the wall.


Don't forget to warm up first with your forward fold, crescent lunge, and big toe hold! If you can't find these poses, they were in my previous post which will be attached below. So, go check that out as they are explained there.

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