SO many of us are tight in the legs and hips. Often we don't even realise how tight until we are asked to bend over and try and touch our toes. So much of what we do aims to either tighten or weaken the muscles in the legs and hips (think of all that sitting you might do at desks, in cars, on lounges) which then has a huge impact on pulling strongly on our lower back. This sequence will give you more length in your legs and greater freedom and mobility in the hips. It's really important to establish a steady, calm breath rhythm before you begin to use as a foundation for the practice - there are a number of challenging poses - use the breath to stay calm to focus on release rather than resistance. You truly will enjoy the rewards by staying still, and remaining for the duration of the pose.
Pose one, two and three
Draw the right knee to chest, and soften the whole back body into the floor, bring the chin more to the chest to lengthen into the neck. Relax here for two minutes.
Take the right knee over to the left for a reclining twist. Ensure the shoulder blades connect to the floor. You can rest the knee on a block, place the left hand on the knee and gaze toward the right hand if you want to increase the twist. Stay for two minutes.
Continue to roll all the way over onto your belly, allowing the right knee to draw out to the side. Keep the knee at the same height as the hip, bend the knee on a 90 degree angle. Focus on softening the inner groin, creating less space between the inner thigh and the floor. Keep the elbows under the shoulders, or walk the elbows more forward (or rest on the hands) to reduce the action in the sacrum. Stay two minutes before rolling all the way over onto the back to rest for a minute. Then start on the left side.
Pose four, Seiza
This pose is painful! But a wonderful way to stretch the toes and the plantar fascia along the soles of the feet. If the feet are tight (which they usually are), they will pull on and tighten the whole fascial train along the backs of the legs. Mindful breathing is a way to remain calm even when the sensations may be strong. Try staying here for one to two minutes – lift up off the heels to reduce the intensity. Come forward into a table top position to release the feet – let the feet circle in both directions before the next pose.
Pose five, Ankle stretch
A great counter pose to seiza as it stretches into the front of the feet, ankles and knees. Just sitting in a kneeling position may give you a strong enough stretch - only walk the hands back behind if there is no pain in the knees. Start to shift the weight backwards, allowing the knees to rise off the floor. Another strong pose – stay for only 1-2 minutes then release again in table top circling the feet.
Pose six, Dragon
A strong release into the hip flexor. Come into a lunge position, right knee forward. Ensure the knee is directly above the ankle. Hang the weight of your head and torso, draping yourself over the front knee. Come back to mindful breathing – this pose will test your focus and the ability to remain calm despite facing a challenge. Test yourself- breathe into it with relaxation rather than resistance. Stay for 3 minutes, then come out to table top and pause. Lift up into downward facing dog to release before coming to the other side.
Pose seven, Downward facing dog
Use this as a counterpose to dragon – it can feel lovely to stretch out the legs,perhaps bending one knee at a time, move in this pose however it feels good or remain still. Stay in here for about 5-8 breaths.
Pose eight, Half shoelace
This pose gets into the whole of the back leg – calves, hamstrings, and up into the lower back. Take the right knee and place it over the left knee, keeping the left leg extended. Allow your torso to fold forward and rest your head onto your knee, or onto a block. Breathe deeply here, really focussing on releasing into the whole of the back body. Stay here for 4 minutes. To come out, extend the leg and rest your weight back on the hands. Pause for a minute before swapping sides then rest down on your back in savasana.
Finish with Legs up the wall - this can be done using a bolster, a stack of blankets, or simply lying on the floor and not raising the hips.
As it is one of the most restorative poses, it should be part of your regular evening routine, particularly if you spend a lot of time on your feet. This is a great way to unwind from your day, counteracting the effects of gravity on your body and will bring you into a deep relaxation. Stay for at least 5 minutes or longer if you have time.