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Jan 04
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Yoga to Help You Sit, Part 4

Opening the hips to help open the heart

by Martha Whitney and Trina Magi

Lunge-300x225Tightness in the hips can make sitting meditation uncomfortable. “For a long time, I experienced pain in my upper back when I sat on the meditation cushion. When I started focusing on hip openers in my yoga practice, I noticed the back pain went away,” says Trina. What do hips have to do with the back? As Martha explains, “Sitting cross legged on a cushion is challenging for the whole body when hips are tight and the knees are lifted. It’s hard to relax into the base of support. Often the muscles of the back tighten in response to this holding. As we mentioned last month, sitting up higher can create greater ease.” Some people experience discomfort in the hips themselves.

Our hips become tight mostly because we spend so much time sitting in chairs, and the muscles and the connective tissue become short and rigid. One way to keep the hips flexible is to spend more time on the floor. Try sitting on the floor while you’re reading, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

In this final part of our “Yoga to Help You Sit” series, we offer three yin yoga poses to help open your hips. Hold the poses for a short time at first—perhaps three to five breaths. As you build capacity, you can hold the poses for one to three minutes. Try to relax the buttock and thigh muscles so that the benefit of the pose goes to the connective tissue of the joint. In yin yoga, when you find the shape of the pose that’s right for you, you remain still and breathe in a balanced, rhythmic way, breathing in for four counts and out for four counts. This will send a relaxation response to your muscles. You will need to practice consistently–four or five times a week–to see improvement. In between poses, it may feel good to do “cat” and “dog” (see Part 3).

1)  Pigeon Pose 



-Start on hands and knees on a padded floor.

-Bend and slide left knee and place on floor near left wrist, with left heel under left buttock. For a deeper hip opening, slide the left heel in front of the pubic bone. Listen to your knee for feedback.

-Extend right leg straight back with right knee and top of right foot on the floor.

-Square the pelvis as much as is comfortable (perpendicular to your right leg).

-If left hip is off the ground, you can place a cushion or blanket under it to support it.

-You have several options for your hands:  a) Stay up on your hands, b) place forearms on the floor with elbows under shoulders, c) extend forearms out to the side and place forehead on the ground, or d) extend forearms, stack your fists, and place your forehead on your fists.

-Hold for several breaths and over time up to one to three minutes, breathing into the pelvis and out through the heart.

-Repeat on opposite side.

2)  Lunge (called Dragon in yin yoga)


-Start on hands and knees on a padded floor.

-Step right foot forward between hands.

-Support yourself on your fingertips with your right knee over the right ankle.

-Slide left leg back until you feel stretch on the left thigh.

-Keep your head and chest upright with a long line from head to tail and a little lift through the breastbone.

-Hands are on either side of the front foot, or both hands are the left of the front foot.  For greater ease, put hands on blocks or thick books or a meditation cushion.

-Hold for several breaths or up to one minute.

-Repeat on opposite side.

3)  Frog Pose (also called Wide-Knee Child’s Pose)



-Start on hands and knees.

-Bring big toes together on the floor, keeping knees spread apart as wide as is comfortable.

-Reach hips back to heels.

-Stretch arms out in front.

-Place forehead on floor, or stack your fists and place head on fists.

-If the stretch is too much, place a rolled blanket between buttocks and heels or narrow the space between your knees.

-Hold for several breaths or up to one minute.

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4 responses to “ Yoga to Help You Sit, Part 4 ”
  1. Caroline Moore
    Jan 9, 2016
  2. The title of this article suggest there are other yoga instructions. Please provide the links to parts 1, 2, and 3 and any other related bodywork instructions.

  3. Very helpful. Thank you!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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