Three prop-friendly poses for greater flexibility 

As promised, here are three poses that rely on a little help from yoga props. For more on my favorite props and my prop-averse past, be sure to visit my posts from earlier this week!

Supported Heart-Opening

This pose always helps me release tension in my upper back. For deeper back opening, place the blocks lengthwise on their tallest sides; for less opening, place the blocks lengthwise on the lowest or medium side.

1. Align the blocks about two or three inches apart. Come to staff pose, with your legs extended straight in front of you and your hips about six to twelve inches in front of the blocks.

2. Slowly lean back, allowing your back to drape over the block closest to your hips; the block will rest between the shoulder blades, with the edge of the block located a couple of inches beneath the edge of your shoulder blades (approximately at the bra strap line). Rest your head on the second block. Adjust as necessary to find a comfortable position. Remain here for 30 seconds to two minutes, relaxing the muscles in the shoulders and mid-back.

3. To exit, press down through the forearms and lift the chest up and then forward until you are seated.

4. Remove the blocks and lie flat on your back for thirty seconds to two minutes.

King Pigeon Pose

  King Pigeon develops flexibility in the gluteal muscles, the psoas, and the hip flexors. Enter and exit this pose carefully, as overexertion can cause pain in the knees, hips, or low back.

1. Place your left hip on a block, forming a 30-90 degree angle with your shin and thigh. The farther your left foot is away from your left inner thigh, the more difficult the pose is for tighter glutes and knees. 

2. Straighten your right leg behind you and square your hips in line with one another.

3. Bend your right leg and flex your foot toward your shin. This will make it a bit easier to loop your right foot with a scarf, strap, or towel. Holding the prop with one or both hands, begin to draw  your right leg toward your back. Adjust the length of your prop to find more or less stretching in the right quadricep muscles, or even in the triceps and shoulders. Keep your shoulders squared above your hips. Engage your right gluteal muscles to find more opening in the right hip flexor and psoas; find stability. Hold this pose for five to twenty breaths.

4. To exit, release the right leg to the floor and come to the outer edge of the left hip.

5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Supported Frog Pose  

This pose facilitates deep stretching for the hips and inner thighs. A bolster or cushion offers comfy support in what can be a challenging pose. I’m pictured here with a single meditation cushion. For more support and little more ease in the inner thighs, use additional cushions or even pillows to help bolster yourself.

1. Starting on all fours with a cushion or bolster beneath your chest, begin walking the knees out laterally until you are resting on the inner knees. 

2. Come to your forearms and continue walking the knees out; you’ll probably begin to feel a deep stretch in the inner thighs.  Be careful to keep the hips and knees in the same line — there can be a tendency to sit the hips closer toward the heels. To ease pressure on the inner knees, place a blanket, towel, or folded yoga mat beneath these joints.

3. Keeping the knees in the same plane as the hips, align the ankles under the knees with each thigh and calf forming a 90-degree angle. Flex your toes toward your shins. 

4. Slowly lower your chest to the cushion and allow your arms to rest on your legs or by your sides. Stay here for two to five minutes.

5. To exit, slide forward on your belly and slowly bring the legs together.

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