Last time I went to see my hairstylist and settled in the chair, she said: “Uncross you legs please” before she could start cutting my hair. She sees every day that crossing the legs creates an imbalance in the body positioning which makes it harder for her to create a symmetrical cut. And did you know that crossing your legs increases the blood pressure? Yet, we do it all the time. We sit with the legs crossed or knees together. In general we (especially women) are much more likely to keep the knees together than apart for habitual, cultural, religious and all sorts of other reasons, which creates an imbalance between the inner and outer hips (adductors and abductors).
That is why the poses collectively known as “pelvic opening” are so useful: they stretch the structures of the pelvis, groin, inner thigh and perineal area, while strengthening the muscles on the opposite side (hip abductors and rotators) to restore balance to the adductor/abductor relationship.
The “pelvic opening” group consists of poses where one leg is abducted and rotated outward. In traditional versions of those poses the abducted leg is usually straight, which is too challenging and potentially risky for many practitioners. That’s why we often keep the knee bent, which helps accomplish the same goals.
Sometimes in yoga classes those types of poses seem to pop out of nowhere, without any intentional preparation. One minute you are doing a Tree pose and the next minute you are expected to grab on to your toes and spring into Utthita Parsva Padangustasana. This is unfortunate, because excessive or inadequately prepared for stretching in those areas may compromise the stability of the hip and sacroiliac joints. So today we will talk about proper preparation for those “pelvic opening” poses.
The premise here is pretty simple and applicable to any pose in this group. First we need to make sure that the adductors and abductors had been warmed up (Step 1), and then attend to the hamstrings and inner thighs in the abducted position (Step 2).
This is the absolute minimum, of course. We would also need to include similar elements that stretch the hamstrings and inner thighs, and rotate the leg outward in other poses as well.
While in the pose, we need to control the position of the pelvis to make sure that it doesn’t rotate toward the extended leg. That’s why it can be useful to place your hand on the opposite hip both to monitor its position and prevent it from popping out of place. If you cannot reach the toes – no worries. Just keep the hand on the inside of the knee and try to extend the leg best you can. And if your sacroiliac joint is acting up, stay away from those poses all together. If you want to achieve a similar effect without compromising your sacrum, try Supta Prasarita Padangusthasana with a similar preparation.
And afterwards don’t forget to compensate by stretching your back and taking care of the SI joint with a symmetrical prone backbend (like Vimanasana or Bhujangasana with feet wide apart).
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