BENEFITS Deep hip flexion and the release of the musculature around the sacrum relieve lower back tightness
INSTRUCTION Stand with your feet together, and place your heels on the edge of a thinly rolled blanket (or the floor). Squat down, keeping your knees together. Press your knees, calves, and thighs as close together as possible. Lift your torso upward, and stretch your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor with palms facing down. Take a deep inhalation. On the exhalation, open your knees and bend forward, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Press your inner feet and heels down on the blanket roll. Exhale, and lower your trunk toward the floor until your armpits touch your legs at your inner knees. Reach your arms back around your shins, and hold the backs of your ankles. Use the pressure of your upper arms against your shins to extend your trunk. Don’t lift your buttocks. Hold for 6–8 breaths.
See also Hip Flexor Anatomy 101: Counterposes for Sit-Asana
BENEFITS Stretches your leg muscles; strengthens your back; improves balance
INSTRUCTION Sit in Dandasana. Bend both knees, letting them widen enough to catch your big toes. Wrap your index and middle fingers around your big toes, and place the tips of your thumbs between these fingers, like in Padangustha Mudra (Big Toe Seal). Lift your feet off the floor, just enough to balance on your buttocks. Press your big toes into your fingers, maintaining the toe lock. Draw your shoulder blades down. On an exhalation, lift your wrists and ankles straight up in the air. Stretch your legs upward—all the way from your groins toward your big toes. Draw the skin of your outer thighs back and down toward your hips. Pull your outer hips toward your midline, as this will help you to balance. Keep your legs parallel, and engage your quadriceps to lift both kneecaps. Reach your inner arms toward your big toes, and draw your outer arms backward. Bring your shoulder blades closer to your spine to keep your chest lifted. Gaze past your toes, and balance for 30 seconds. (Note: in the beginning, you might roll back and forth.)
See also The Importance of the Feet in Yoga—On and Off the Mat
BENEFITS Stretches your hamstrings, inner legs, and lumbar spine; aids circulation in your pelvic region
INSTRUCTION Sit in Dandasana. Take each leg out to the side with your feet perpendicular to the floor. Spread your legs wide, but only so far as you can still touch both big toes with your index fingers while keeping your buttocks on the floor (do a quick test). Place your fingertips behind your buttocks, and lift the front and sides of your trunk while pressing the backs of your legs into the floor. Keep your kneecaps facing the ceiling, and lengthen your inner legs. Raise your arms up, and interlock your thumbs with your palms facing forward. On an exhalation, turn your torso to the right. On the next exhalation, reach your hands forward and down, and clasp them around your right foot. Press the back of your left leg down, and extend the back of your leg. Inhale, and lift your head and torso; exhale, and press your right foot into your hands, continuing to press the backs of your legs into the floor. Widen your elbows to the sides, and take your chin to your shin. (You can also put a bolster across your shin to rest your forehead and arms on.) Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
See also What You Need to Know about a "Neutral" Pelvis and Spine