As I yield to the pose Supta Baddha Konasana, I feel a wonderful release in my inner thighs and my legs want to sink into the floor. But as they do, my outer hip joints scream out and I have to raise my legs. It almost feels as if my thighbones are not lined up in my hip sockets and bone is pushing against bone. What causes this and what can I do so my hips will feel more comfortable?
Lisa Walford's reply:
You are very astute, Leigh! While this pose can feel delicious and is a panacea for many problems, when the body is not properly supported it can be distasteful. If your hips are tight or very loose, the head of the femur (greater trochanter), will press toward either the back or the front of the pelvis, respectively. In addition, if your hips are tight, the outer shinbones may bow toward the floor and distort the alignment of the knee. The good news is that with a few more blankets, the wonderful release you relish can be yours every day.
Supported Supta Baddha Konasana frees congested energy in the abdominal organs and thus encourages good pranic flow, health, and vitality to the digestive tract and the organs of elimination. By elevating the spine with blankets or bolsters, the rib cage gently expands. This encourages a restful state for the lungs and heart. It can be a wonderful cocktail for pregnant women or for anyone honoring that quiet transition from day to dusk, a time to let go of the day's events and settle inward.
Because we often stay in this pose for an extended amount of time, any contortion in the joints will flag the connective tissue with undue pressure. First perform the pose without props for support. If your knees are much higher than your hips, then your hips are tight and you should support both the thigh and shinbones. Blocks are inappropriate aids in this instance because they immobilize the legs. However, blankets allow the weight of the bones to gradually release toward the floor as tendons and ligaments soften.
Place a smoothly folded blanket perpendicular to your thighbone high enough underneath the leg to fully support the outer thigh and the shin. Support both legs, even if your discomfort is only on one side-if you only support one side you may torque the body and disturb the sacroiliac joint or lower back. This set up works if your hips are hyper-mobile as well; that is, if your knees touch the floor and you experience pain in the hip sockets.
If it's the knees that trouble you, often the outer shin weighs heavily toward the floor and sinks the inner knee toward the outer knee. In this case, support the shin with a rolled blanket to lift the sagging weight off the knee.
Once the legs are properly supported, the inner groins will soften and widen while the inner thighs lengthen toward the knees. Relax deeply and completely. Soften the eyes in toward the sockets, the cheeks in toward the hollow of the mouth, the hollow of the throat in toward the heart. Rest assured that with the proper support, your body will naturally migrate toward health, composure, and vitality.
Lisa Walford is a senior intermediate Iyengar Yoga instructor and has been teaching for more than twenty years. She is one of the directors of the Teacher Training Program at Yoga Works, in Los Angeles. She has served on the faculty of the 1990 and 1993 National Iyengar Yoga Conventions and studies regularly with the Iyengars.