darling magazine

Yoga For Everyone | Part II | Hip Openers

// This post was co-written with Katherine Harris for Darling Magazine. This is the second part in a 3-part series. Subscribe for upcoming yoga goodies! //

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Eyebrows furled, I lay on the massage table as the masseuse was pressing in between my eyes with his thumbs. Relax. Just relax. Over and over again I was commanding myself to relax without any progress. Then, a quiet voice whispered in my head, “let go, and you will go deeper still.”

Until that moment I didn’t realize that my body, not just my brows, was tense and clenched as I was demanding my body to do  relaxation. The invitation I found was to let go, and simply be. With my next exhale I physically and metaphorically let go.

How we show up for one thing is how we show up for everything. We’re constantly putting demands on our bodies to “chill out,” “just relax” or “get over it.”  But, I wonder if there’s something we can learn in untraining ourselves from constantly doing and instead create space for letting go and simply being.

From the day we’re born we’re learning to balance this fight or flight response both physically and emotionally. Crossing the street, we halt when we hear a car peeling around the corner. Our body physically braces itself when we trip and fall to the ground. Emotionally, it happens too. That discernment or gut feeling we have when we walk into a room and our heightened senses tell us ‘”something isn’t right here,” “this isn’t safe, let’s go.”

In yoga, it’s taught that the physical manifestations of our fight or flight response — these emotions of trauma, stress, anxiety, and fear — are held in the hip area of our bodies, specifically in the psoas muscle. If your life seems riddled by fear, anxiety, endless to-do lists and stress, then chances are your hips are very tight.

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Not to mention, we are a chair-bound culture. Most of us are sitting in chairs at a computer for most of the day which further tightens and shortens the hip flexors and surrounding muscles.

Today we’re going to work on opening our hips to create a deeper release in our psoas muscles and encourage what we’ve been creating the past few weeks: stress relief.  This area of our body holds so much tension and protects our bodies, but as many of us with tight hips know, when our hips are tight it impacts the rest of our body, as well. We’re programmed to do, do, DO.  But the biggest challenge of hip openers is letting go. It’s much less about doing and so much more about being and surrendering.

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Let’s begin.

First start with our 15 minute stress relief warm-up.  After you’ve completed both Sun A’s and Sun B’s meet us in Downward Facing Dog.

  • From Downward Facing Dog, inhale and lift one leg and as you exhale, bend knee and open your hip. Stay for one 2 cycles of breaths.

  • As you exhale, place foot in between hands and spin back heel down, creating a 45 degree angle with the back foot. 

  • Find Warrior II, with hips open and front knee bent to 90 degrees if possible. If your hips are tight, find a wider stance with your legs. Stay for 5 breaths.

  • As you exhale, place hands on either side of your front foot and move through Chaturanga Dandasana - Upward Facing Dog as you inhale and Downward Facing Dog as you exhale. 

Repeat on other leg.

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From Downward Facing Dog, place right foot outside right hand for Lizard Pose. Stay for 5 breaths. Option to lower back knee to the mat if you feel any discomfort. Keep your core engaged to prevent pelvis from sagging which can lead to low back injuries.

If possible, lower to your forearms and try both options with back leg, keeping the leg down on the mat with toes uncurled or tucking your toes, engaging the leg and lifting it off the mat. See what works best for your body. Stay for 5 breaths.

Walk your right foot toward your left hand and let the knee drop to the mat, preparing for Pigeon Pose. It's imperative to practice Pigeon Pose in excellent alignment, as poor alignment can lead to  many injuries. 

  • Pelvis should be in neutral position, with both hip points facing forward. If you're feeling tight or uncomfortable, prop yourself up with a cushion or blanket(s) under your right hip so your hips find a neutral point.  

  • Start with right foot close to your body (not pictured), with your heel touching your left hip. With practice and time, begin moving your foot forward to form a 90 degree angle with your shin (parallel to the short side of the mat). This angle greatly intensifies the lengthening of the piriformis muscle (outer hip), so move gently and give yourself time. 

  • Flex your right foot and press the outer edge of it into the ground, activating your outer hip. Try pressing your big toes into your palm so you can feel where the activation should be coming from.

  • Back leg is straight behind you with toes uncurled and relaxed. The top of your thigh, shin and foot are grounded on the floor. 

Once alignment is secured, slowly walk your hands forward until you’re completely folded over your right leg. Stay for 10-20 breaths.

To come out of Pigeon Pose, walk your hands toward your front shin, curl your back toes under, press into your hands and transition into Downward Facing Dog. Pedal out your feet as needed.

Repeat cycle of Lizard Pose to Pigeon Pose on left side. 

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Options / Variation for Pigeon Pose:

Pigeon Pose Variation: With right leg in front, bend left knee behind and reach for it with your left hand, encouraging your hips to stay as square as possible.

Mermaid Pose: If possible, let your left foot rest in the nook of your elbow crease. Extend your right arm overhead, maintain an energetic lift from your pelvic floor (Kegel muscles) and reach for your left hand. Stay for 5-10 breaths.

One-Legged King Pigeon Pose: In Pigeon Pose, continue sending your tailbone down and crown of the head up. Encourage your torso to lengthen by securing your hands on either side of your hips. Lift your right arm up, engage your core, bend your elbow and reach back for your flexed, right foot. Lengthen the crown of your head up and allow your neck to mindfully bend back to gaze behind you. Stay here or move forward by finding balance and stability without the support of the left hand on the ground. Send the left arm up and back so both elbows are pointing upwards and both hands are holding your right foot. Continue lifting from your pelvic floor to prevent collapsing into your low back (lumbar spine). Breathe and slowly release one hand at a time before bringing your neck to a neutral position.

Follow the same steps listed above when transitioning between sides. 

What’d you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts, and if you have any questions whatsoever, leave a comment and I’d be more than happy to help in any way I can!

With love,

Sara

/ / C R E D I T S / /

Photos by Sara Kerens

Yoga Bestie, Katherine Harris of The Refined Woman

T-shirts by Spiritual Gangster


Yoga For Everyone | Part I | Darling Magazine

// This post was co-written with Katherine Harris for Darling Magazine. This is the first part in a 3-part series. Subscribe for upcoming yoga goodies! //

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It's truly a blessing that I often get to combine my biggest passions - yoga and photography - and call it work. Yoga is a way to turn the lens around and take a look at what's going on inside, and no matter who you are or where you are in your practice, yoga is available.  

So when Darling Magazine wanted to offer its readers an accessible and short yoga flow that helped de-stress in a chaotic city like New York, we knew we were the gals for the job. When I say we, I'm referring to my best friend Katherine, from The Refined Woman. We're coming up on 4 years of knowing each other, but time has nothing to do with our love story. Kat and I come from very different backgrounds, but have somehow become women on a similar path - a path of self-awareness and constant dream chasing! 

When we’re in the same city, you'll often find us at any given park, with music & yoga pants on and breath moving up and down in unison. Regardless of the day's event, we come together and wipe our slates clean by one simple move: breathing.

I invite you to try this basic 15-minute yoga flow, prepared by Kat and myself, and experience what your body goes through. It's a perfect way to either start or end your day! 

I hope you give it a try and let us know what you think.

Namaste, loves.

With love always,

Sara

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Y O G A  F O R  E V E R Y O N E  B Y  T U T T I  +  K A T 

First, find child’s pose. Sit back on your heels, rest forehead on the ground. Relax your entire body, and start connecting with your breath.

Next, find a neutral spine on all fours. Begin moving with your breath. Inhale into cow pose, exhale to cat poseRepeat five times. (This simple movement warms up your spine, wrists and hips.)

From here, curl your toes under and press into downward facing dog. Make sure you press into your index finger and thumb to avoid dumping weight onto the outside of your wrist.

Cycle through five breaths in downward facing dog. Slowly walk to your hands. Bend knees as much as you need. Arrive into rag doll position. Hold onto opposite elbows, and if it feels good sway side to side.

Now, onto through Sun Salutations A + B.

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SUN SALUTATION A (3 times)

From rag doll, slowly roll all the way up, stacking one vertebrae over the next until you arrive and EXHALE in mountain pose.
INHALE, lift arms up, and gaze to your hands.
EXHALE, fold forward, release your neck.
INHALE, lift your torso halfway, gaze forward and widen your collarbone.
EXHALE, plant hands, step / hop back to chaturanga dandasana (if you can do a push up, you can do this!)
Bend elbows to 90 degrees and shift forward to upward facing dog as you INHALE.
EXHALE, downward facing dog.
Stay for five breaths.
Look forward, walk or jump to the top of your mat, INHALE, halfway lift.
EXHALE, fold forward.
INHALE, come to stand, raise your arms and look up.
EXHALE, mountain pose, arms by your side.

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SUN SALUTATION B* (3 times)

Make your way from downward facing dog to forward fold.

INHALE, chair pose, sit hips back and raise arms alongside your ears.
EXHALE, drop hands to the mat and straighten legs.
INHALE, halfway lift.
EXHALE, plant hands and step/jump back chaturanga dandasana.
INHALE, upward facing dog.
EXHALE, tuck toes, downward facing dog.
INHALE, raise right leg. Keep toes pointed toward the mat.
EXHALE, plant right foot in between hands, spin back heel down to 45 degrees (toes facing the top left corner of your mat).
INHALE, come to stand with arms alongside ears for warrior I (you’re doing it!).
EXHALE, plant hands to frame foot. Step back to plank, then lower halfway.
INHALE, upward facing dog
EXHALE, downward facing dog.

Repeat on left side.

Once you’ve completed the left side, breathe in downward facing dog.
Look forward, walk or jump to the top of your mat, INHALE, halfway lift.
EXHALE, fold forward.
INHALE, chair pose.
EXHALE, mountain pose.

Repeat complete cycle three times.

*Options for Sun Salutation B:

First Cycle: Add a lunge twist after warrior I, left hand down, pick up back heel, and twist toward raised right arm.

Second Cycle: Humble warrior I after warrior I, interlace hands behind back, bring torso inside bent leg and stretch shoulders. THEN release left hand down for lunge twist.

Third Cycle: Repeat above steps and add a side plank after lunge twist.

Finally, rest in child’s pose for five breaths.

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Come to all fours and neutral spine, INHALE, right arm up.

EXHALE, thread it under left arm. Rest on right shoulder. Stay for five breaths.
INHALE, press up to untwist and gaze up.
EXHALE, neutral spine.

Repeat on left side.

We’ll end with breath practice. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and breathe.

INHALE for counts of four.
EXHALE for counts of seven.

Stay for three to five minutes, then slowly open your eyes, and smile.

Namaste, loves!

 

// C R E D I T S //

Photos Via: Sara Kerens

Yoga Bestie: Katherine Harris from The Refined Woman

Yoga T-Shirts: Spiritual Gangster

Yoga Mat: Jade Yoga