“If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
∼ Mark Twain
You’ve got to challenge yourself in life. And sometimes, other people have to do the challenging for you, just to keep you on your toes.
My girlfriend challenged me to try for thirty days the hip opening exercises she’s been doing recently to see what effect, if any, they might have on me. After all, I’m already pretty flexible in the hips when my knees are out to the side – years of sitting cross legged on my bed because I didn’t have a chair have seen to that – but other than that my range of motion in the hip joint could certainly be improved.
She gave me two exercises to do, thirty seconds on each side, so just over two minutes extra work each day. Doesn’t sound like much, but even then I had trouble squeezing it in sometimes!
Here’s what I got up to…
Exercise 1 – Gomukhasana: Shoe Lace Pose, yin variation
Kneel, sitting on your heels, then sit off to one side and swing the upper leg over the lower until your knees are above one another. If you can’t manage this, and not everyone can to begin with, just get as close as you can. As long as both buttocks are comfortably on the ground you’re doing fine.
Inhale, then exhale forward and hold for thirty seconds.
With each exhalation see if you can go a little further forward, remembering not to strain or force while doing so. Relax the muscles around your hips to help deepen the stretch.
After thirty seconds release and do the same again on the other side.
Exercise 2 – Agnistambhasana: Fire Log Pose, yin variation
Sit with your lower legs one on top of the other, both buttocks comfortably on the floor. You’re aiming to have feet and knees above each other, but just do the best you can. And if it means laying your legs one in front of the other on the floor in front of you, so be it. Use cushions or blankets to support your knees if necessary.
If you find there is a gap between your upper knee and your lower foot place a blanket or cushion there so that your knee can rest comfortably.
Inhale, and then exhale forward. Hold for thirty seconds.
Place your hands on the floor in front of you for support. With each exhalation see if you can go deeper into the posture, again without strain or force. Remember to relax your hip muscles.
After thirty seconds release and do the same again, changing over which leg is on top.
If you can sit comfortably without the blanket for support you should do so, and feel free to go as low as possible without risking injury. Always support yourself with your hands.
Personally I prefer doing both exercises with a straight back when I go forward, as I find it more beneficial, but you can also do them with a curved, relaxed back for a more ‘yin’ experience.
You may also find in both exercises that one side is easier or more flexible than the other. This is perfectly natural, and may also change day to day. Only do what is comfortable for you on the day, and if it is ever too much for you then stop immediately.
To begin with I was a little stiff (to say the least!). My knees in the first exercise were nowhere near being above each other, and my top knee in the second exercise was way up in the air. But, you can only start from where you are, so I just went with it. What the hell, it was just for thirty days!
On the days where I did a full yoga session it was easy to integrate them into my practice. On the days when I had to go to work it was tolerable, but still ok. On the days when I was all over the place and only just remembered to do them before bed it was… interesting. And on the days where I forgot I just forgot, lol.
Slowly I became happier in what I was doing, and I found myself able to go deeper into the exercises, eventually able to do them ‘properly’ (as it were), and without any support even (in the case of the second exercise).
On the days where I just did the exercises and nothing else (usually right before bed) I found them to be very freeing after a long day of sitting at work, and just those few minutes brought a lot of relief to my hip area which I quite enjoyed.
As you can see from the final picture above, there was a noticeable effect after just thirty days. I found myself able to go much deeper than I had in the beginning, and I was comfortable holding the posture for longer also.
I found the exercises to be quite beneficial, and I’ve since incorporated them into my daily routine (time permitting – mornings can be quite a rush when you have to be out the house at 7am!). I can recommend giving them a try, and if you do please let me know in the comments below how you get on.
I’m on a new mission now: The three minute daily Plough. I want to get back to where I was by the end of the Teacher Training Course in 2012, and this is the way to do it I reckon. I’ll let you know in a few weeks how things work out, and how long it takes for me to get my tootsies on the floor once more.
Wish me luck! :)