Today's Daily Tip
Side Stretch Satisfaction
Ideally in Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana to the right side, flexible adductors and hamstrings on the right allow the pelvis to tip to the right, so when the torso bends over the right thigh, it lengthens out over the right thigh, with the right ribs approaching the right thigh. If the tight hams and adductors have "frozen" the pelvis upright, the right torso compresses down into itself during sidebending, which can cause painful pinching in the low back and may contribute to arthritis in the lumbar spine.
Help for Stiffness in Legs and Low Backs
For a student with a tight low back and hamstrings, especially one who has a history of lower-back pain or injury, it's probably best to work first on sidebends while leaving the legs out of the equation. One relaxing way to do this is by sidebending over a bolster or stack of blankets. Ask the student to sit on the right buttock on the floor, with legs folded to the left beside her. Pull the long side of a bolster (flat on the floor) in beside the right hip, and have her lie sideways over the bolster so the right side, between the waist and armpit, will be supported by the bolster. (It's important to support the weight of the torso so the side muscles are relaxing, not contracting.) Bend the bottom arm (which supports the head) and leg while stretching the top arm and leg out in line with the torso, as though the back of the body, top leg, and arm were lined up against a wall. In this position, the pelvis naturally tips to the right and the left waist and ribs are gently lengthening. This gentle stretch is an excellent one to teach to your stiff or injured students.
As your students work toward increasing their side-body flexibility, have them continue practicing poses to improve their adductor and hamstring flexibility. They can accomplish this without risking lower-back strain or injury in poses such as Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), with their top foot supported on a chair or ledge.
How will you know when they're ready to combine the two for Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana? When their flexibility has improved, have them sit on the floor as they would for Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana to the right. Can the pelvis tip a bit to the right? Sitting them up on a folded blanket under the sitting bones will help their chances. If the pelvis will tip a little, they're ready to start working on the pose. I recommend placing a folding chair, with the seat facing the torso, over the right leg. This way, they can reach for the back of the chair with the left hand, which helps lengthen the torso horizontally rather than compressing down. The chair seat can support the head, which will help them relax. With a little preparation and support, you can set the stage for your students to enjoy the benefits of side-stretching sitting poses.
Julie Gudmestad is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and licensed physical therapist who runs a combined yoga studio and physical therapy practice in Portland, Oregon. She enjoys integrating her Western medical knowledge with the healing powers of yoga to help make the wisdom of yoga accessible to all.
Page 1 2