For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the dog days of summer have settled in with a big ole lazy heat wave. Who wants to move when the air is so heavy? Yoga class today? No, thanks, set me in front of my fan with an icy latte and a spicy novel. It’s good to slow down in the heat, even if that means giving ourselves permission to laze around.
At some point though, the novel ends, and the body calls for movement, despite the sweltering weather. Recent research shows SITTING to be a major culprit in health decline. So I’m heading to the studio, no matter how strong the sun is today. No matter how lazy my mind tells me that I am.
I’ve been working on supta padanghusthasana (reclining leg lift) which is a foundation pose. It’s a forward bend that is practiced lying on the floor with the back of the body completely supported. Even if my back is achy or slightly injured, I find I enjoy the stretch and release of this particular pose.
With both knees bent, I reach for the big toe of my left foot with the second and third fingers of my left hand. Those are the “peace sign” fingers for all you lovers of hamstring release. Stretching the left leg, reaching the toe pads toward the ceiling, lengthening the inner ankle bone up and away, I soften my shoulders, my hips, my belly, my face and gaze gently up at my big toe. Maybe I curl my mouth into a half-smile. Just for the heck of it and because I need to remind myself that I am inviting my hamstrings to release with non-forceful effort.
Sometimes I practice with the foundation foot pressed into a wall. It’s amazing how that can ground the femur. Then I can invite the groins to release deep within. Sending my awareness into the places I tend to hold and then slowly breathing into that area. The lifted leg slides a bit closer toward my shoulder. Perhaps I’m able to grasp that ankle today. The lower back responds to the stretch by softening and dropping. I imagine my brain dropping onto the back of my skull as my thinking slows.
And then, for fun, sometimes I practice while in legs-up-the-wall pose.
There are the variations, beginning with supta padangusthasana two: Turning the leg out from the hip so that the knee begins to look toward the floor, I draw the raised leg away from the body and up towards the shoulder.
Or Supta padangusthasana three which is not an official pose but delivers a strong stretch all the way around the hip. I swing the lifted leg back to the center; switch the hand grasping my foot, and invite my body to roll onto the side as the foot drops onto the floor and I release the opposite arm away from me in a “T: position. With a strong exhale into the shoulder blades, I tuck the other shoulder under my body and release the upper hip away from the leg
MMMMMM, It’s all delicious.