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Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana at the wall (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)
Lengthens your hamstrings; teaches the correct actions of your front leg and the alignment of your pelvis that you’ll need for the final pose—Hanumanasana.
Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your heels pressing against the wall, and slide a strap beneath your sitting bones. Then, come into Tadasana, facing the wall with your heels on the strap. Remove the strap, keeping your heels in the same spot. Take a moment to find a neutral Tadasana pelvis—neither spilling forward nor backward; one hip should not be higher than the other; and one hip should not be rotated farther forward than the other. Maintaining this level pelvis, place your left foot on the wall, and raise your arms into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Check that your right toes are pointing straight forward so that your second toe, the center of your ankle, and the center of your kneecap are all in line. To re-establish your Tadasana pelvis, direct your outer left hip and sitting bone downward and in toward your right heel (for most people, their left hip hikes up, shortening the left side of their body and creating an imbalance in their sacrum). Now turn your attention to your standing leg and hip. Vigorously press your right femur backward as you firm your right hip into your midline. Press into the wall with your left big-toe mound and into the floor with your right big-toe mound to keep your legs alert and in a neutral position—and to help lengthen your hamstrings. Reach up energetically through your fingertips to create more space along the sides of your body. Hold for 10–12 breaths; repeat on the other side.
Crescent Lunge with back heel at the wall
Lengthens your hip flexors, which is crucial to protecting your lower back in the final pose; teaches the correct actions of your back leg.
Begin in a modified Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with your heels a couple of inches up the wall, and a slight bend in your knees. Step your left foot forward, and establish a 90-degree angle with your thigh parallel to the floor, and your left knee stacked directly above your left ankle. Keeping your right knee slightly bent, inhale, and raise your torso and arms. Release your tailbone forward and down toward your left heel, and draw the pit of your abdomen in and up. This will help you lift the front of your pelvis while dropping the back of it, bringing it into an upright position where your lower back is not overarched. Two major hip flexors (the psoas and the iliacus) originate at the lumbar (lower spine) and the ilium (upper hip bone), and when they are short or tight, they pull your lower spine and pelvis forward, putting your lower back in jeopardy. By initially keeping your right knee bent, you’ll be able to tip your pelvis backward (posterior tilt), thereby stretching your hip flexors. Maintaining the posterior tilt of your pelvis, slowly and incrementally start to straighten your right leg. Don’t be overly ambitious—a half inch is a mile in this pose! As you mindfully press your right thigh up and back toward the wall behind you, continue resistance in your tailbone, pushing it forward and down toward your left heel. You’ll know you’ve found the right proportion of each action if you feel a deepening of the stretch in the front of your right hip. Reach your fingertips toward the ceiling to bring more length into your sides without allowing your front ribs to protrude. Knit your ribs toward each other, and soften them down toward your frontal hip bones to reinforce the work of the pelvis without moving your lower back. Hold for 10–12 breaths, then release. Repeat on the other side.
See also 3 Ways to Modify High Lunge
Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana at the wall (Standing Splits)
Brings together the previous two postures; lengthens your hamstrings and hip flexors; teaches the correct actions and alignment of your pelvis.
In this upside-down version of the final pose, you’ll use the wall for guidance and support. Begin in the same modified Downward-Facing Dog Pose that you set up in for Crescent Lunge. Step your left foot forward between your hands. Put your right foot on the wall behind you at about hip height. Adjust your hands forward so they are beneath your shoulders on the floor. Glance back at your right foot and make sure it’s pointed straight down, not rotated out to the right. Roll your right hip forward and down, and pin your left hip back and in toward your right heel so the two sides of your waist are equally long. Inch your right foot up the wall as you hop your left foot back toward the wall. Plug into the wall with your right big toe, and spin your right inner thigh toward the ceiling. As you work your way backward and up the wall, adjust your hands toward you so that your upper arms frame your ears. Use your arms to help maintain evenness along your sides. Move until you’ve reached your maximum stretch while maintaining a neutral pelvis. Hold for 10–12 breaths, then reverse your entrance, easing your left foot forward and bringing your right foot down until you can step back into modified Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Repeat on the other side.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.