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Day 16: Intermediate

Hip Openers with Rebecca Urban

If you run, bike, swim, ski, or swing at balls to stay in shape, hats off to you! Sports such as these have numerous benefits. They can, however, lead to tightness or imbalances in your hip muscles, which in turn can lead to pain in your lower back, knees, and even shoulders. That's where hip openers such as Pigeon Pose and Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) come in. In addition to easing pain and lowering your risk of injury, asanas that increase range of motion in your hips can actually improve your game.

This sequence by Rebecca Urban includes a heaping helping of hamstring stretches, including Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey God Pose). Tight hamstrings restrict range of motion in the hips, causing a telltale rounding of the back in forward bends. Poses that target these muscles are often among athletes' least favorites. Soften your face and gaze, relax the shoulders away from your ears, and focus on your breath. "Find happiness in your hamstrings," Urban says. "Find joy there. It's there. Just breathe into it."

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Challenge Tip

It's tempting to avoid postures that challenge us physically or bring up powerful emotions. We can even rationalize it: If yoga is about finding contentment, why not dispense with the tough stuff? But coping with tough stuff on the mat trains us to cope with the tough stuff that's an inevitable part of life. The poses we're most resistant to are often our best teachers.

Today's Recipe: Refreshing Quinoa

This tabouli-like salad uses quinoa instead of bulgur, making it gluten-free.

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