Asana Column: Hanumanasana
Opening the Hip Flexors
Hanumanasana affords you the opportunity to open the back and the front of your legs at the same time. While Supta Padangusthasana opens the hamstrings, Eka Pada Supta Virasana stretches the groin and the front of the thighs-the hip flexors and quadriceps.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet together, and soles on the floor. Lift your left foot a few inches. Then exhaling, slowly draw your left leg into Virasana position, placing the top of the left foot beside the left hip. Separate your toes and point them toward your left shoulder, position your left hand on your left heel, and push your heel toward your left knee. While you are doing this, swing your left leg to the right until your inner left thigh touches the right ankle.
On an exhalation, press your left thighbone into your left knee while pulling the left side of your lower belly toward your kidneys and your head, thereby stretching your quadriceps and your hip flexors. Make sure your right knee is bent, with your right foot on the floor. (This pose should never be done with the right leg straight, because doing so will distort the pelvis and place strain on the sacroiliac joints.) Press the right foot firmly into the floor to recoil the left side of the pelvis and the left waist toward the floor. Keep the throat relaxed and the breath smooth and long. Stay for 18 to 36 breaths, then gently lift your left pelvis to take your left leg out of Supta Virasana. Repeatthe pose on the other side.
To intensify this pose, start again on your back with your knees bent. Pressing both feet into the floor, lift your pelvis as high as possible. Then place a wooden block underneath the sacrum, resting the sacrum on the smallest face of the block. The block should be placed with the broad dimension spanning and supporting both sides of the sacrum. On an exhalation, swing your left leg back to Virasana, pulling the shin with your left hand to bring your toes as close to your left shoulder as possible. While doing this, you will notice that your belly rises. This movement defeats your purpose—opening the groin—and must be carefully avoided by pulling the entire lower belly toward the diaphragm, creating an intense stretch across your left groin and in your quadriceps. Swing your left thigh toward the right until your left thighbone is parallel with the spine. Clearly visualize the opening across the front of the groin during each exhalation.
In the beginning your left knee will not rest on the floor, but with practice and by concentrating on moving your left thighbone toward the left knee and your belly toward the kidneys, it will. If this version of the pose is too intense, drop the block one level down, positioning it on the floor perpendicular to the spine. If the left side of the sacrum lifts off the block, press the right foot into the floor to help bring the left side of the sacrum onto the block. To open the chest, roll the shoulders under toward your midline as though you're performing Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and keep the throat soft. Exert yourself only on exhalations, using your inhalations to recharge your body. Remain in the pose for between nine and 36 breaths; then on an exhalation, release your left leg and repeat on the other side.
Practicing Eka Pada Supta Virasana will ease any tension around the sacroiliac joint, and it will help remedy the collapse in the groin that inevitably comes from sitting in chairs.
After consistently practicing Eka Pada Supta Virasana and Lunge you will feel taller and stronger, due in part to the release of your psoas muscle. In addition, even if Hanumanasana is not your goal, practicing Supta Padangusthasana and Eka Pada Supta Virasana will transform your hips, your sacroiliac joints, and lower back, creating a taller spine, an easier gait, and a longer stride. You will find climbing and hiking become much more pleasurable. Also, after strenuous activity that tightens the groins and the hips, these two poses will relieve both areas. !--page-->
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