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Advanced Yoga How To

5 Hamstring Openers to Find Freedom in Compass Pose

Compass Pose demands a lot of your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. Learn how to warm up safely for this complicated seated pose.

Compass Pose can demand a lot of your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. Learn how to warm up safely for this complicated seated pose with yoga teacher and author Rina Jakubowicz.

Bound Standing Forward Fold

Rina bound-standing-forward-fold-baddha-uttansana

Baddha Uttanasana

Start to open your shoulders and hamstrings in this variation of Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your hands on your hips. Inhale and extend the spine. Exhale and hinge from your hips forward, moving from your hips, not from your back. As in all forward bends, emphasize the lengthening the both sides of your torso as you fold deeper. Bend your knees slightly and thread your right arm under your right thigh, internally rotating your right shoulder to bring your left arm behind your back. Clasp left arm with your right hand by your right hip if possible. Otherwise just place your hands wherever they land and open your chest to the left as you try to straighten your legs and straighten your left arm (if clasped.) Continue to press the heels and the balls of your feet firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling to accentuate the stretch. Take 5 breaths here before exhaling to release the arms, inhaling to rise, and switching sides.

See also Achieve Uttanasana the Safe Way 

Lizard Pose

Rina lizard-utthan-pristhasana

Utthan Pristhasana

Warm up your hamstrings, hips, and shoulders slowly with Lizard Pose. From Tadasana, step your left foot back into a lunge and bring your hands down to the inside of your right foot. Lower your left knee to the floor if you wish but keep your head lifted, looking forward. Stay up on your hands, bring forearms down onto a block, or bring forearms down to the floor. Choose the deepest option that allows you keep from collapsing to the left. Pull the low belly up and in and stay here for 5 breaths before coming back to Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) and switching sides.

See also 9 Poses Your Hips Need Now

Half Monkey Pose or Half Splits

Rina half-monkey-ardha-hanumanasana

Ardha Hanumanasana

Start to move deeper into your hamstrings with Half Splits. This pose also allows you to work on maintaining an elongated spine. From a Low Lunge with your right left forward, left leg back with the knee down. Start to straighten your right leg and flex your right foot, turning the toes up. Move slowly to test out your hamstring flexibility. Your left knee should be moving toward your left hip. You want to feel a good stretch down the back of your right leg (not behind the knee). Align hands below shoulders on the floor or a block, whichever allows you to find length in the lower back. Take 5 deep breaths, lengthening on the inhalation and folding forward from the hip crease over the front leg on the exhalation. Inhale to come up to Low Lunge and switch sides.

See also Poses for Hamstrings

Monkey Pose

Rina mokney-hanumanasana

Hanumanasana

If Ardha Hanumanasana seemed to be healthy for your hamstrings, then move toward Hanumanasana or Full Splits. Find your way back to Half Splits and then slowly start to slide your right heel forward and your left foot back. The use of a towel under the right heel helps to make the movement smooth and fluid. Keep rotating your thighs inward, toward the midline, so that your front kneecap is pointing up and your back kneecap is pointing down. Also keep your hips square toward the front of your mat and your shoulders stacked over your hips. Rotating the pelvis forward can help you keep the spine long. Place your hands on the floor or on blocks, directly under the shoulders. Inhale to extend the spine and exhale to relax your hips toward the floor. Take 5 breaths here before slowly coming back to Low Lunge then switching sides.

See also Moving Toward Monkey Pose

Heron Pose

Rina heron-krounchasana

Krounchasana

This pose will help you to actively extend your leg, sit up tall, and warm up your hips deeper for your full Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana, or Compass Pose. Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) and internally rotate your left leg for Half Hero Pose (Ardha Virasana). Then bend your right knee and grab your right foot with both hands clasping your fingers around the sole of your right foot. Lean back slightly, lifting the sternum. Rotate your pelvis forward so you are sitting firmly on your sitting bones. Engage your shoulders, pulling them down away from the ears. Inhale to lift the right leg up while holding your foot, angling it about 45 degrees from the floor—or as high as your hamstring can handle. Hold here for 5 breaths. Then exhale to release and switch sides.

See also Ground Down to Grow Your Heron Pose

Compass Pose

Rina compass-parivrtta-surya-yantrasana

Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana

With open hips, shoulders, and hamstrings, you are ready to try Compass Pose, a freeing seated pose that will allow your spine to strengthen and stretch in a unique way. Start seated and externally rotate your left knee as in Easy Pose. Grab the top of your right foot with your left hand and slide your right arm under your right leg, moving your right knee as high up toward your right shoulder as possible. Plant your right hand on the floor a few inches away from your right hip, pointing your fingertip toward the right. Inhale, roll to the front of the sitting bones and exhale to use both arms to straighten your right leg as much as possible. Try to keep both sitting bones on the floor. Keep pushing the right hand and left knee down. Clasp the right foot with the left hand and turn your chest to the left slightly, looking under your left arm toward the left. Feel the stretch all along the left side of the body in addition to the stretch in your right hamstring. Take 5 breaths here and release to change sides.

See also Hip Parade

About Rina Jakubowicz

Rina Tree Pose variation Vrkasana Rina Jakubowicz

Rina Jakubowicz is a bilingual yoga teacher and Reiki practitioner based in Florida. She is the founder and owner of Rina Yoga, which now has three studios in Miami, and teaches there and at events worldwide, including Yoga Journal LIVE, the Glow Yoga Festival in Puerto Rico, and Feria Mujer in Chile. She is the yoga expert on Univision’s Spanish language music television series Tu Desayuno Alegre, the host of Health & Wellness Channel’s YOUnity Yoga daily morning show, and the creator of a pioneering yoga curriculum for children and teens called Super Yogis’ Schoolhouse.

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