Summer 2018 Hips

If I ask a yoga class of riders on what they’d like to focus, inevitably most people say “hips and shoulders.” Most riders recognize that we tend to hold tightness and tension in these two areas, and that we need to do something about it to ride and connect with our horses well. Hence, last week’s practices addressed the shoulders, and this week’s practices focus on the hips.

The two main muscles on which we are focusing are the psoas and the piriformis (the “terrible p’s”), which need to be both supple and strong for us to ride well. The psoas is a deep hip flexor, bringing the knee up, while the psoas is an external leg rotator, turning the leg out (both of these muscles work along with other hip muscles, of course, and have additional roles, but these are the most important and basic). For more details about the role of the psoas in riding, refer to this post from July 2017.

After mentally taking some moments to transition into practice, begin with high lunge, moving into low lunge:

Anjaneyasana – high lunge. Keep energy flowing freely down back leg by lifting it up from inner thigh.
Anjaneyasana – low lunge: Arms can be raised above shoulders for additional stretching of hip flexors. Press top of back foot into ground for stability; pad under back knee with blanket if uncomfortable.

Thursday only: claps the hands behind you and lift the sternum into a backbend.

Be sure to press top of back foot into ground, and imagine that you are drawing front foot backwards (although it doesn’t move). Engage core, and lift heart. You need not take head back, only if that is comfortable on your neck.

Low lunge with side stretch: place a block under the lower hand if stretching all the way to the floor is too far for you at this stage (this photo is from our yoga for riders e-book)

Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I pose: Feel the grounding of the pose through the feet, yet the uplift of energy through the upper body. Refer to second set of photos below for a reminder about knee alignment.  Thursday only: Humble warrior (right side of photo below).

Square the hips towards the front of your mat while keeping pinky side of back foot, along with hell, well grounded. Imagine that you are stretching the mat long between your feet.
Virabhadrasana I/Warrior I leg alignment – be mindful of keeping the knee in line with the second toe of the foot

Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II pose: Grounded through feet, light with upper body. Note alignment of knee in second photograph below.

Hips open to side of mat – think of external rotation of the thing bones, while dropping tail towards floor, but not tucking. Imagine stretching the mat long between feet. Keep shoulders relaxed.

Thursday only: repeat last week’s bound extended side angle pose.

Bring the head in line over the front foot – this will automatically align the hips. Keep heel of straight leg well grounded.

Warrior II leg alignment – it is especially easy for the knee to fall over the big toe or even further in here; think about rotating the thigh bone out towards the pinky toe.Thursday only: Half pigeon pose, then bend back leg (optional)

Flex the foot of the bent leg, and place the bent knee far to the right (if right leg bent). Keep the weight evenly distributed on both hips.
Half pigeon pose extending forward: Keep the front of the body long
For a bigger stretch of the hip flexors and front of the thighs, draw hip of back leg forward.

Upavista konasana/Seated wide legged forward fold: Keep knees and toes pointing straight up towards ceiling, even as you move deeper into the pose.

Upavistha konasana/Wide legged forward fold: Front of spine remains long. If you find your pelvis in a posterior tilt (tuck), place a folded blanket under the seat to help you find a more neutral pelvic alignment.

Side twist with bolster: Tuesday class, we did not get to this, but feel free to practice this pose as well if you are familiar with it. If not, we will return to it again in a future class.

Ensure bolster is placed comfortably under side. Release into the pose – no effort.

Happy practicing – and sweet dreams thereafter 🙂

~namaste,

Sylvia

 

Author: Sylvia Vitazkova, PhD, CYT

Dr. Sylvia K. Vitazkova is a certified yoga teacher, life coach, horsewoman, and conservation biologist. Sylvia’s formal study of yoga began while she was an undergraduate at Cornell University, and intensified when she began to practice Ashtanga Yoga in 1997 while attending Columbia University for doctoral studies in biology. Sylvia soon realized that she wanted to help others experience the consciousness and transformation that her own practice fostered in her and began to teach in 1998, subsequently studying in Mysore, India, in 2002. Sylvia continues to evolve her practice by learning from senior teachers, the most influential of whom has been Barbara Benagh. Her teaching focus is on correct alignment, the joy of being fully present in one’s body, and the psychological and spiritual context within which the physical practice is embedded. Parallel to being a yoga teacher, Sylvia had a full-time career as a professor of Conservation Biology, having taught undergraduate and graduate courses, including a course she created on nature and spirituality, which brought her two areas of expertise together. She has conducted and published the results of her research on wildlife in the tropics, and has been involved in the creation of a number of conservation studies programs. Sylvia’s experience in mentoring students naturally led her to life coaching, in which she became certified through George Mason University in 2014. A lifelong connection with horses has been woven throughout these experiences, from her first pony while a child in Africa, to teaching at riding camp in the U.S., then Claremont Riding Academy in NYC, to the current and ongoing exploration of how yoga can be a tool for better and more connected riding. Sylvia now leads InBodied Living LLC, a wellbeing organization and consultancy, with her partner, James Houston.