When my senior beginning students ask me what they should practice at home I always prescribe Leg stretches. Never to overwhelm a new student with more things to add to their pressured day, I keep it simple by suggesting to start with just one pose. Simply asking them to hold each leg stretch for only one minute to begin with. So, two minutes of yoga each day in the beginning is doable. Only 2 minutes a day? Why not!
One pose can change your whole day. Seriously, when I ask my students to hold each leg stretch for one minute and that’s it, students are inspired to take it on. The beauty of underwhelming a new student with minimum home practice is that they will typically be inspired to do more, Instead of feeling pressure and guilt for not doing enough. The comments that come back to me prove to me that they have done more then my suggestion and the results are ten fold in their classroom progress. They are super excited by the day-to-day changes and can see for themselves how consistent practice of even one pose a day really does make a difference as they quickly show improvement and change.
My senior students are feeling less hip pain, leg pain and fatigue. Along with a renewed feeling of lightness from increased circulation, greater freedom of movement in their gait, they are able to stand longer, walk easier and they are truly seeing the satisfying fruits of their home practice, as simple as it is.
Beginning senior students will come into a yoga class with a bucket load of past information in their minds about their body and their limitations. But there is one main limitation that reveals itself instantaneously when beginning yoga and that is the Hamstrings
Students with tight hamstrings have a hard time moving forward (literally) in their practice as it is reflected in our own language as the old saying goes, if someone is ‘hamstrung’ they are stuck! So it goes in Yoga as well.
Beginning with Supta Padangusthasana is a great start.
supta = lying down, reclining
pada = foot
angusta = big toe
I find that there is so much fear with students when experiencing the sensation (some would call pain) of the back of the legs stretching that they avoid it at all costs.
In acupressure, the Bladder Meridian runs down the back of the body including the back of both legs. First the Bladder responds to the emotion and second it represents our in life. So, in our ambitious society, the hamstrings are very busy.
Supta Padangusthasana offers an efficient stretch to the back of the leg (hamstrings and calves) and when including Supta Padangusthasana with a block giving a more intense stretch to the quads and psoas. These are synergists muscle groups working together that will bring a refreshing feeling of rejuvenation and energy to the entire body. Using a yoga strap will allow any student to find their range of motion without strain and eliminate that element of fear.
Taking these stretches to another level by adding other leg stretches with the block. The block is placed under the sacrum and Supta Padangusthasana is repeated but the focus is now on the quads and the psoas muscles.
As students seek more practice they can add other leg stretches. If students want to increase timings by 2 minutes each variation they can increase home practice to 10 minutes.
People have busy lives, but they also want to feel the independence to incorporate the classroom experience at home. This is a way that inspires without pressure, and leads them on a path of choice, freedom and self-exploration.