Up to Number 8 already? Here goes…
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this posture – I find it very relaxing hanging upside down and feeling the insides of my legs toning as I do it! Of course you don’t just hang there for the whole posture – this is Bikram Yoga after all! Here is the process:
Preparation for Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
From the feet together position bring the arms up over the head and take a big step to the right with your right leg – at least 4 feet. The wider you go the easier it is and it will tone up those inner thighs a treat while you’re at it! The feet should be pigeon-toed unless you have sciatica when it is best for them to face straight ahead. Correct alignment always helps with the posture so make sure your heels are in one line – as if you could draw a straight pencil line behind them. I know it sounds a bit fussy but it truly is worth it as you will improve much faster in the postures if you take care of the details. At the same time bring your arms down so they are parallel to the floor. Nothing floppy about those arms – you need them tight and firm keeping your fingers and thumbs together.
Suck the stomach in (makes you so much stronger, gives you great tone and feels fab too) and slowly bend down from the lower spine towards the floor. Now the head stays up, with the chin forward so you can see yourself in the mirror for as long as possible. The knees should be locked (it is Bikram Yoga after all!). Grab your heels with the usual Bikram grip – meaning thumbs and fingers together – no air holes! If you can’t reach the heels grab the outsides of the feet.
Now we get to the Bikram technique – not just hanging there but using your arm and back muscles to pull on the heels as hard as possible to stretch your body down further to the floor. Keep the knees locked throughout the posture and roll the body weight onto the toes. The aim is to touch your forehead to the floor. Of course you may be quite a way off so in that case you should widen your feet as much as possible which will automatically bring the head down lower.
This is not a passive posture so once you are in position you keep pulling continuously, eventually the spine will straighten from the coccyx to the neck and your forehead (not the top of the head) will touch the floor between the feet. Simples! ( I jest!)
This posture will first stretch the legs, then the hips, then the lower spine and eventually the whole spine will get a workout and you should feel a stretch from the coccyx to the toes, and coccyx to the forehead.
If your head is nowhere near the floor in the first set, make your stance wider for the second set. If you are pretty flexible and your head touches the floor – bring the legs in a bit to make it more of a challenge – if you like that sort of thing of course!
If your legs are locked you can even try bringing your forearms in a bit so they touch the calf muscles. This will really give you great arms too!
Just a quick tip that helped me – I used to struggle and strain in this posture until one teacher told me to just RELAX into it first and let the weight of my head pull me down and then “give it some welly” once in that position by using the arm and back muscles to pull the body down lower to stretch the spine more.
Summary of the main points of Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose:
- Step to the side as wide as you can
- Keep the knees locked throughout the posture
- Keep the head up, chin forward and look in the mirror as long as possible
- Suck the stomach in to the spine
- Grab the feet as instructed – you need the leverage
- Don’t just hang there – pull on the heels to stretch the spine more
- Aim for forehead to the floor in between the feet
- Roll the weight on to the toes
- Once more advanced and with locked knees bring the forearms back so they touch the calves
The benefits of Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose:
- Tones the legs and hips – especially the often fleshy inner thighs!
- Tones the arm and back muscles – great definition!
- Brings blood to the head and face
- Pulled in stomach will ensure all the organs are in place