Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee With Stretching Pose
Just as you catch your breath after the heart and lung expansion in triangle pose, the teacher announces the next posture. The name alone is long enough so you can take another breath. Be thankful for the little things. Its time to lengthen, invert, and compress your spine into a “rainbow of a stretch.” that is this standing separate leg head to knee with stretching pose. Thank you Justin Riley for the grossly acute, satisfyingly poetic metaphor.
Start with your feet together and your arms over your head sideways, make a steeple with your hands flat in a prayer position. Now step out to the right. Three feet MIN-I-MUM. Tip: the wider the step, the easier the pose will be. Now turn directly to your right. To add effect and precision, lift your toes and pivot on your heels. Turn your hips, torso, face, and steeple all to the right. Twist your left hip FIVE TIMES forward. Now your hips should be square.
Now you’re ready to go.
INHALE BREATHING. Tuck your chin to your chest so your throat is choked. What you cannot see here, is the stretching of the back of the neck and lengthening of the area surrounding the brain stem. Your major metabolism regulating hormone secreting glands live here and they benefit from the stretching. Your cervical vertebra lengthen against the continuous shortening most of us live with. No big deal. Keep the breath steadily flowing, even if the duration of the inhale and exhale shortens.
Now, with your chin to your throat, pull your arms back as far as you can. BEHIND YOUR EARS IF YOU CAN. Keeping your legs straight, bend forward from the waist and touch your forehead to your knee. You can use your arms to push your head down.
MODIFICATION FOR THE BEGINNER:
Different teachers will tell you different things in this pose. For example, Joel will tell you to open your hands and bend your front leg and QUICK go and get your forehead on your knee. Chris might say, make angry piano hands as you push the floor away from you and tuck in harder, stomach in more to get that head/knee connect.
Either way, your forehead is on your knee and you are keeping energy from moving into your head by gently choking your throat.
Now, slide your hands forward and push finger tips into the floor to GET YOUR HEAD HIGHER ON THE KNEE. Use those angry piano hands pushing into the floor and your stomach in energy to compress more.
Try to breathe. Smile. Think of how happy the back of the spine is as it lengthens into that RAINBOW OF A STRETCH from the coccyx to the neck. Opening every single vertebrae and cartilage. You could stay here all day.
And finally, the teacher mutters that one word to make your day, “CHANGE!”
As you push your back heel into the floor, hang on to that left hip forward action by lengthening toward the back of the left leg heel to keep your hips square. Stabilize your trembling legs and lengthen your steeple upward as you return to the starting position and take this pose on the other side.
Nauseous and dizzy after this pose are normal in the beginning but talk to your instructor if it persists. Don’t give up. This is a very uncomfortable pose for some. Hang in there.
Benefits / side effects of this pose:
Slims the abdomen, waistline, hips, buttocks, and upper thighs. Builds flexibility in the sciatic nerve. Internally, the metabolism gets a kick start. Mentally, the practitioner cultivates determination, patience, and concentration. Basically this ones like free medication.
Written by Hot Yoga PHL instructor/studio director, Katelynn. Katelynn is a yoga instructor and practitioner of Ayurveda She is the director of Hot Yoga Philadelphia, Half Moon Ayurveda and Integrative Health and also the the founder of Philly Yoga Factory, a non-profit organization making yoga and integrative healing arts accessible to underserved communities in Philadelphia. Katelynn practices Ayurveda, organizes workshops, and teaches yoga at her yoga/ intergrative health clinic in Center City Philadelphia.