Now, we bloggers tend to start the new year with deep, reflective posts, but I'm going to skip that step and launch straight into a post requested by a reader a little while ago, on a lovely but challenging hip opener called Lizard Pose. Also, stay tuned for the sequel on how to use Lizard Pose as a starting point to work towards a challenging arm-balance: eka pada koundinyasana (sage pose) II.
A little while ago, a reader contacted me through Facebook and asked for advice on modifying Lizard Pose. She commented: "My thigh can't seem to stay straight - it wants to poke out to the side. Then I am having problems with my shoulders. Even getting to where my shoulder is by my knee is troublesome."
First of all, from my perspective, it's totally OK for your front thigh to be angled outwards. After all, your femur sits side-on and forward of your hip joint, as shown in the picture below. As you can also see, this is more exaggerated in women than with men.
The way that the femur and the hip are aligned means that in forward-facing hip-openers (like Warrior I, lunge and lizard), you should always set up for the pose with the feet at least hip width apart on your mat. For women, aim for shoulder distance. This means that the right foot is to the right side of the midline, and the left foot is to the left side. This alone might alleviate any discomfort you're feeling by creating more space for the hip joint to move through.
Next, you can create even more space for the hips with one simple movement: turn your forward toes outward, towards the front corner of your mat. This reflects the natural alignment of the femur, so when you come deeper into the pose, bringing your hands to the mat, you should feel more spaciousness in the hip joint. You can walk your foot further out to the side to get even more room.
When you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 breaths with your palms flat on the mat, you can play with coming a bit deeper into the pose by bending your elbows. Another way to explore this pose is with the back knee on the ground. This takes some of the weight off the hip joint and can be a great variation for those with especially tight hamstrings.
Eventually you might place your elbows on a bolster, block, or on the floor. However remember that this pose is not about how far down you go. It's totally fine if your shoulders never go lower than your knee - as long as you are feeling a good stretch in your hips, glutes and hamstrings. Be respectful of your body: since hips are joints, there is no joy to be had in straining to push your limits. Rather, let go of your ego, breathe deeply and work on holding the pose longer while staying relaxed through the breath, allowing your body to slowly change old patterns of movement.
Lizard Pose is a big hip opener, so before coming into this pose, do some warm ups like hip circles, supine pigeon, and lunges. Enjoy!!
Readers, what are some poses you'd like to see featured on Yoga Tip Tuesdays? And yes, I know it's not Tuesday today, but whatever! ;) The name is catchy.