Strengthen & Stretch
This slow flow is all about systematically strengthening then stretching the major muscles in the hips. Feel free to spend time in each pose and repeat each movement.
High Boat to Hollow Body (illiopsoas strengthening)
Find High Boat from a seated position by extending and lifting the legs to create a V-shape with the body. Reach the arms forward towards the feet and strongly engage the core. Pull the shoulder blades together on the back to shine the chest forward. On an exhale, lower the body so that the feet hover about an inch above the ground. As you lower, lift the arms overhead. Press the sacrum and lower back firmly into the mat. Slowly move between these two positions three to five times.
Low Lunge Variation (illiopsoas stretch)
From High Boat, cross the shins and roll forward onto your hands and knees. Then, place one foot between the hands and lift the upper body to find a low lunge with the back knee down. Slowly sink the hips down and forward. Simultaneously, work to tuck the tailbone under and pull the navel in towards the spine to bring the stretch deeper into your illiopsoas muscle.
From Low Lunge, plant the hands on either side of the foot and move the leg back towards a table top position on your hands and knees. However, instead of returning the front knee to the mat, continue to reach and lift it up and back behind you. Keep a 90-degree bend in the lifted leg so the sole of the foot is pointing upwards. Engage the core, and contract the glute of the lifted leg as you pulse the heel up towards the ceiling. After 10 pulses, hold the heel up at its highest height for 10 seconds.
Leg Pulse and Hold (gluteus maximus strengthening)
Standing Knee to Chest (gluteus maximus stretch)
Return to a table top position on all fours. Then, step your opposite foot in between your hands. In one sweeping motion, come to standing while lifting the knee of the leg that you’ve been working up and in towards the chest. Interlace the fingers around the lifted knee and gently pull, to stretch the gluteus maximus. Hold for around 5 slow breaths.
Horse Stance Eccentrics (adductor strengthening)
From Standing Knee to Chest, step the lifted leg to the back of the mat and turn the body to face sideways. Point the heels towards one another and the toes outward as you lower the seat into a high squat. Ensure that you knees are pointing in the same direction as the toes. Feel the inner legs engage as if the heels are reaching towards one another. On each inhale, straighten the spine and shine the chest. On each exhale, slowly lower a bit deeper into your squat. Repeat for 5 breaths.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold (adductor stretch)
On an inhale, straighten the legs and reach the arms overhead. On the exhale, bring the feel to parallel with the legs still wide, and allow the body to fold forward at the hips. Feel free to walk the hands backwards between the legs or find any other variation that you would like. The goal here is to feel the stretch in the inner tighs, so if you feel sensation exclusively in the hamstrings, you may also experiment with walking the legs slightly further apart.
Warrior III to Standing Tuck Transitions (gluteus medius strengthening)
Rise from your fold, and rotate into a high lunge facing the front of the mat. Slowly begin to lean the upper body forward over the front bent leg and lift the back leg. Engage the hip of the supporting leg in towards the center line of the body. Extend your arms overhead. Reach long through the fingertips and heel. On an exhale, lift the body upright, bend into the supporting leg and pull the knee of the floating leg into the chest so that you’re in a tuck position while standing on one leg. Transition between these two positions 5 times.
Half Lord of the Fishes Variation (gluteus medius stretch)
From your Standing Tuck, bring your seat all the way to the ground. Cross the ankle of your previously grounded leg over the thigh of the opposite leg so that the sole of the foot is on the ground. Ground down evenly through both hips. Wrap the arms around the lifted knee and pull it into the chest as you straighten the spine and reach upwards through the crown of the head (this is intended to be a gluteus medius stretch rather than a full twist). If you would like, you can also take the full expression of Half Lord of the Fishes from here.
Active Seated Forward Fold (TFL strengthening)
Uncross the legs and extend them straight on the ground. Lengthen the spine as you pull the navel in and shine the chest forward. Then, being to actively press both heels into the mat and find a very slight internal rotation (toes angling in) of the legs. On an exhale, reach the arms forward and fold without rounding excessively into the lower back. Think about reaching the nose towards the toes rather than the forehead towards the knees. Remain actively grounding and reaching for 5-10 slow, deep breaths.
Active Supine Figure-4 Twist (TFL Stretch)
Rise out of your forward fold and come to your back. Bend the knees and cross one ankle over the opposite thigh as if you were preparing for Reclined Pigeon pose. Allow the legs to fall over to the side of the grounded leg. Begin to actively reach the lifted knee towards the opposite foot so that the foot of the lifted leg hovers. Feel the stretch in the TFL muscle, located right along where the opening of your pants pockets are. After holding for 5-10 breaths, reverse these motions to return to your back, find your high boat, and repeat on the opposite side.