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Monday, October 17, 2016

Tip of the Week: First Part of Standing Head to Knee

It’s best to think of Standing Head to Knee Pose in phases instead of focusing on the ultimate destination.  If you can commit to mastering each step one at a time, you will build a much stronger foundation and ultimately a better executed posture, even if you remain in the beginning phases for weeks, months, oftentimes even years.  If you can breathe, have a little faith, and truly take this posture at your own pace anyone can enjoy the benefits of this posture. For the first phase of this posture:

Step 1. Clear your mind and say to yourself "I am not going to fall out of this pose today." Keep your eyes fixed on one spot and do not move the eyeballs (this is a meditation technique that helps keep the body and mind very still and concentrated)

Step 2. Establish a very solid foundation. The most important aspect of this pose is the standing leg being STRAIGHT and ENGAGED. Contract all of the muscles above and below the knee. You know you are collapsing when the weight is sinking all the way back in your heel and you are feeling pressure in the back of the knee of the standing leg. 

Step 3. Suck your stomach in and breathe slow and steady throughout the pose, as this will help you with your balance considerably. Do this BEFORE you round down. Trying to suck your stomach in after you already have your foot in hand does not allow you to engage all the same muscles because now your weight is distributed differently in the body. Suck it in as hard as you can before you round down!

Step 4. Interlock 10 fingers and as you pick up your foot try to round down, so that your lifted thigh is parallel to the floor. If you are standing upright as you try to grab your foot, it is much more difficult to achieve a locked out leg as your hip joint on the standing leg isn't in the ideal position. With your lifted thigh parallel to the floor, the lower part of your leg should be directly under your knee at a 45 degree angle to the thigh.

*For those who are overweight, have arthritis or other conditions and challenges, round the spine and grab wherever you can below the knee.

Step 5. Notice how heavy your foot feels in your interlaced hands.  Your “core” or more accurately, the muscles in your belly, hip flexors, and in your lower back, are responsible for holding your leg lifted (NOT your hands). The more these muscles work to hold your leg up, the lighter your foot will feel in your hands. *To test your core strength, try releasing your foot for a second while in this position to see if you can still hold your leg up.

Step 6. Keep your body weight forward on your standing leg foot (as opposed to resting on the back of your heel or in the back of your knee). Push the knuckle of your big toe into the ground. This will cause the muscles on the front side of your standing leg to pull up almost automatically.  As a result, between shifting your weight forward and holding your leg lifted, you will be using almost all of the muscles in the front side of your body.

When the muscles on the front side of your body are being contracted, they send signals to the muscles on the back side of your body to stretch.  As you build range of motion in the back of your standing leg and low back you will eventually have the range of motion available to kick out part way, or fully.  If your standing leg buckles when you try to kick out, it means you’ve gone beyond the range of motion available to you, and are no longer using your contracted front-side muscles to hold you in place.

Remember that you are getting 100% of the benefit of the posture just by staying in the first part.  Focus on maintaining your balance here, looking forward in the mirror at your standing knee, and breathing in and out through your nose. Don't get frustrated if you aren't ready to kick your leg out. It can take months or even years to get to the next part. Again, 100% of the benefit from 100% effort in the first part!

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