I have always considered myself pretty flexible, but now that I have been taught eka pada Sirsasana, I have realized I have super tight hips. As I have been struggling with hip flexibility since supta kurmasana, I decided to employ a plan to hopefully loosen my hips and make all of the leg behind the leg poses achievable. My plan is three-fold: 1) Yoga in the sauna, 2) Diet and supplements, 3) rolling and massage. Today I am going to tell you what the first part of my plan - which includes stretches and yoga in an infrared sauna.
An infrared sauna is different than a regular sauna in that it uses infrared light to heat your body. Also, rather than heating the air around you, the infrared sauna targets your body directly, which means it will produce heat in your body at lower temperatures. The infrared sauna has a wide range of benefits, but its claims on aiding an increase in flexibility have been backed up by scientific studies. For example, a study from Auburn University compared stretching in a sauna and at room temperature. The group that stretched in the sauna saw significantly greater improvements in flexibility. The heat of the sauna flushes out lactic acid, which in turn loosens tight muscles.
Excited by these results, I started stretching in an infrared sauna after my regular yoga practice. I also started stretching after running as this activity could potentially affect my hip flexibility. I am lucky enough to have an infrared sauna in my house, however if you don't, there are places where you can go to spend some time in an infrared sauna. Just take some light clothes and get down to business (But please, wear something! Your neighbor does not need to see your naked bits doing yoga!). Below are the exercises that I have been performing to improve my hip flexibility. Note that I do these exercises after my regular practice... Not before.
1) Seated pigeon
I start with this easier stretch. It gets on my hips without being too aggressive. Try keeping your hips square and bringing the foot as close to chest as possible. Stay 10-15 breaths on each side.
Bring the soles of your feet together and scoot your butt back - this is not badda konasaa. Then fold forward, tilting your pelvis down and bringing your chest as close to the seat as possible. The pelvic tilt will make this stretch more powerful so work on bringing your bootie up like beyonce and your chest down . Stay 10-15 breaths.
3) Baddha Konasana
In the same position as the pose before bring your feet closet to your pelvis. Before bringing the chest down activate the pelvic tilt forward (beyonce bootie!) and bring your chest to the floor. Again, the pelvic tilt helps your hips stretch even more. So instead of a rounded back try to keep your back as straight as possible. Stay 10-15 breaths.
4) Full pigeon
This is probably my favorite pose of all time because it gets deep at the hips. Set up for pigeon pose by bringing your chin as parallel to the wall in front of you as possible. Then slowly bring your chest down trying not to round your back. Stay 10-15 breaths on each side.
5) Preparation for leg behind the head
Now we are getting close to the actual leg behind the head pose. Seated with your left leg straight, keep your hips squared and then bring your foot as close to your face as possible keeping your knee parallel to the front wall. Work on getting your making your back straight as you tilt your pelvis forward. This small movement will guarantee you get deeper into your hips. Stay 10-15 breaths on each side.
6) Second preparation for leg behind the head
The second prep pose keeps the legs at the same position, but bringing the foot towards the ear. Again, try to maintain your back as straight as possible by tilting the pelvis forward. Stay 10-15 breaths on each side.
7) Leg behind the head
Now from the prep, try to take the leg out and the further back. Reach lower in your back with your foot. try to keep your back straight. Stay 10-15 breaths on each side as you work on straightening your back and moving the pelvis forward.
This is my sauna sequence for tight hips. I have been doing it everyday and hopefully you will see results soon! At first it may seem that your hips become tighter as you are over extending them in the sauna. However, stay faithful in your practice, activate the forward pelvic tilt in each downdog, and you are bound to see great results. This worked for me, but you may want to consult your physician before starting any new health regimen, including this one.
Next week, we will discuss how diet affects your practice and flexibility!
Have a blessed week!