Yoga can be daunting. A lot of the more popular varieties either involve complex poses, fast-paced transitions, or more advanced “showy” moves. A lot of that comes from the U.S. culture of fitness, which can be pretty one-dimensional. Yoga evolved as a meditative practice, so this “yoga is a workout” is sort of alien to the original ideas (if that’s how you prefer to exercise, though, more power to you) and the headstands and splits are basically the yogic version of “how much you bench?” (but to be fair, whenever I reach a new pose, I’m quite excited).
Instead of focusing on the flash without substance, what are some poses to help your legs feel a little less tight?
If I had to pick the pose that the average person might enjoy most, it’d be this one. We spend a lot of time sitting, and even if you’re up and moving, your legs are getting a lot of abuse. Often the easiest way to get into this pose is by going into a push-up position, with your butt raised a little. Bring one of your knees toward your chest and lay it on the ground so that your foot is near the opposite wrist, then set your back leg down, if you can.
You should be leaning so that you feel the stretch in your hip and glute, but you can sort of move around to target tightness anywhere in the upper leg. If you need more, go down onto your forearms or slowly circle around (“stirring the sauce,” as a mentor of mine would say).
This one hits your glutes, hips, and quads, so it can be a great opener after squats, a run, or even just a day at the office or on your feet.
I always feel like Spider-Man in this pose, so for me, that’s an immediate couple of points in this pose’s favor. Wall-crawling notwithstanding, Lizard is actually great for the back of the leg, so it’s a nice complement to Pigeon and the next on the list, Crescent, so you can hit the legs from all sides.
Similar to Pigeon, start in push-up position and bring the knee to the chest, but this time, put your foot to the outside of the same-side wrist. Let your back leg come to the ground, and lower your upper body as far as you feel comfortable, but try not to curve your back.
Congratulations, your hamstring and glute are getting that love, and maybe even a little hip stretch, depending on your position.
It feels good when you stretch out those hip flexors, doesn’t it? This might be the king of doing just that. Start in a wider-than-normal lunge position and then lift up your back knee. You should refrain from leaning forward, but can arch your back a little. Also try pressing your rear heel back further and raising your hands above you for a balance challenge.
You should feel this in the front of your hip (around your groin) and your quadricep.
As always, if you feel safe trying to play around with body positioning, do so, but always be cautious and do it slowly. Talk to an established yogi and, of course, your doctor before doing anything where you could potentially hurt yourself.