Friday, February 22, 2013

Hip Opening "Tree Pose"

I have new motivation to keep stretching and opening up my hips, but I won't bore you with the reasons for all of that now!  The real point is that I should be stretching and opening up my tight hips anyway!  All of us with tight hips, which means all of us, should be doing something on a regular basis to help open up our hip flexors and hamstrings to keep us out of flexion and more into extension....blah, blah, blah...why should you care?

Tight hips, what does that mean?  Mark says....

"It means that you have hip flexor, hamstring muscles and hip rotators muscles (the muscles underneath your butt, aka, glutes) that are not fully mobile, and what you want are muscles that do not have any restrictions.  "Tight hips" can create back pain, hip pain, leg pain not to mention a lack of mobility.  If you can't can't arch your back and/or you can't tuck your pelvis under then you probably have tight hips.  And certainly if you can't squat down to a chair your hips are really tight!  The problem comes from all of the sitting we do. We sit at the TV, we sit to eat, we sit at computers, we sit to drive....sit, sit, sit!"

The pose I demonstrate above is "Tree pose".  In Bikram's yoga practice there are a number of poses that help open up the hips.....when done properly!  I can't tell you how many times I watch people do this pose improperly.....about 100% of the time!  Even when the teacher clearly instructs to NOT have a "duck butt", guess what?  Apparently no body knows what a "duck butt" is, OR their hips are so tight they can't help it!  But if that's the case then you should take advantage of the use of your opposite hand and hold onto your foot to pull your bent leg down and back.  The "goal" is to have both legs in one line, while pushing your hips forward to open them up!  A good clue to whether or not you are doing this is to pay attention and contract your glute muscle (squeeze your butt muscle!)  In the above picture you can see I'm still a good six inches away from that!

Tree pose, in Bikram's yoga, is NOT a balancing posture.  Sure, you have to balance, but it's a hip opening posture, and your standing leg/hip/glute should be other words, SQUEEZE your butt muscle!  If you cannot squeeze your glute then you are not in the posture.  Everybody is in a hurry to put both hands in prayer and look pretty!  In the bottom photos I demonstrate my hands in "prayer position" and then only one of my hands in prayer, while the other holds onto my foot, while pushing my bent leg down and back, and while squeezing my glute muscle and lifting up on my knee cap of my standing leg/hip.  This does two things.  Squeezing my glute helps to open my hip flexor to bring my hip forward, and lifting up on the knee cap of my standing leg ensures that my standing leg is straight.  Oh...and I also try and make myself tall (like a tree) by lifting my rib cage and shoulders, up and back, visualizing the top of my head being pulled up towards the ceiling, while on the opposite, rooting down through the floor with my entire foot (roots like a tree).

In my opinion it's much more important that you open up your hip than it is to balance with both hands in prayer, looking pretty, with a duck butt!  But that's me.  Eventually I want to get both of my legs in the same line, while having both hands in prayer, with full extension in my hips, now that would really be pretty!  Pretty and correct according to the "dialogue".  And I'm so close!

With some new motivation I'll be more focused on Tree Pose, and a few other yoga poses I will share, to help open up my tight hips!  And by opening up my tight hips get better with my GS single jerks!  Oh!!!!!  The truth comes out!  lol


Diana said...

I'm sure it's no big deal, but when I was taught the tree pose, we were to put our opposite foot flat against the inside of the thigh of the straight leg. Same with the tightness of the straight leg, but also the arms eventually go up over head with hands in prayer. The heal of our foot, when really good, would be right up against the crotch. This style (IMO) was a balance and a hip flexor-my favorite pose. Must be the prayer part! ;)

Tracy Reifkind said...


Tree pose is done differently in the Bikrams practice, but the version you are describing is very common.

I find it difficult to keep my foot against the inside of my thigh and push my bent knee back to really get a good hip opener doing it that way. When I put my foot on top of my opposite thigh I can use my standing leg to really push back. Either way, it's the regular consistent practice that is the important part.