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Category Archive for ‘Thigh Loop’ rss

The Gateway to Happiness: Part 1 of a 4-Part Series

The snowstorm was on its way to NYC, and there was an eerie quiet to the city. Students kept asking, worried, whether classes would be canceled the next day, and when I went out to my favorite pizza place, my friend insisted that we meet early to beat the storm and we found an empty restaurant, instead of the usual long wait. I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest, or maybe it’s because I was out of town when the blizzard hit a couple of weeks ago, but I kept thinking: it’s just snow.

So I when I got home I looked online and discovered saw that the city’s response to the last blizzard was less than adequate, and indeed it had caused a major disruption. Everyone was worried it would happen again and, as a result, they were changing their plans and hunkering down.

It made me think about a beautiful teaching I received recently from Douglas Brooks, on the four true enemies of happiness (they are really four pairs), the things that get in our way of being content in our lives and accessing our heart’s desires. The first one is what is called bhaya, or fear. Yes, fear was taking over New York City. It was the kind of fear that is based on past experience (the “I’ve been burned before” scenario) rather than on present circumstance, and keeps us from going for what we want. Fear is an enemy of happiness when it becomes paralyzing, when it keeps us from acting. If you live from the place of fear, you can come up with a reason not to do anything; just getting out of bed is dangerous (of course, not getting out of bed can also be dangerous, but we won’t go there).

Interestingly, going to the opposite of fear doesn’t lead us to greater happiness, either. Abhaya, fearlessness, can also be an obstacle to happiness, if we’re fearless in a way that’s reckless or foolhardy. NYC’s response to the December blizzard probably falls into this category; perhaps they were thinking, it’s just snow, and so failed to take the necessary measures to ensure safety and the smooth functioning of the city. Abhaya is problematic when it makes us rash, and we act without concern for the consequences.

So we’re not trying to get to the opposite extreme. Instead, the gateway to happiness is where we can hold both fear and fearlessness in the same place, as a co-mingled, simultaneous experience. We need them both. Bhaya gives us just enough respect for the circumstances to have a little caution and pay attention. Abhaya invites us to go for it anyway.

I woke up the morning after the snow storm to a sparkly, radiant Fort Greene. This time, the city had planned better: the streets were plowed, the sidewalks were being uncovered, and the subways were functioning normally. Out in the park, the fearless (kids and adults alike) were sledding and crashing and doing it all over again. The city had gotten it right.


This class and practice is all about holding the simultaneity of opposites, of caution and fearlessness, in the place that opens the gateway to our greatest joy. Douglas always says that when you can hold two things in the same place, you are on the path to the divine.

Inner Spiral (and Thigh Loop): They key aspect of this principle that we’ll focus on here is getting the thigh bones to set back into the hip sockets. This involves a kind of stepping back, a kind of cautionary approach that creates just the right amount of respect and protection to enable you to move forward safely. However, if we take the thigh bones back without adding the next principle, we will feel blocked, as if living from the place of fear.

Outer Spiral: This

Yoga of Impact


Listen to the full class by using the audio player.

During a couple of weeks on vacation, I set myself a couple of tasks in my yoga practice: the first was to do every pose listed on the 3 Anusara syllabi (in preparation for my advanced asana retreat). The second was to figure out why my lower back is so stuck in forward bends. Doing all of the poses was simply fun! Understanding my lower back was a revelation.

A general principle of Anusara Yoga therapeutics is that the thighs govern the health of the lower back, because the way the femurs set into the hip sockets determines the curve and support for the lower back. This is something I have worked with for years, but in certain forward bends, I have found it nearly impossible to get the thigh bones to set back enough and hence, my lower back has been locked.

So I began by investigating the Thigh Loop, which is the principle of alignment that takes the tops of the femurs back into the hip sockets. Very quickly I realized that while I had been initiating the thigh loop, I wasn’t really following through with the full action and so I wasn’t getting the full benefits of this action.

Thigh Loop, like all of the principles of alignment in Anusara Yoga, initiates to the back plane of the body. To me, it’s like understanding that the inner shift and transformation of our yoga happens first, and then our outer lives and actions reflect what has already transformed on the inside. So, the Thigh Loop takes the heads of the femurs back into the hip sockets. But it doesn’t stop there; it then flows down the back of the leg/hamstrings to the top of the shin, presses the top of the shin forward (where it reinforces the top of shin loop and helps prevent the leg from hyperextending) and then lifts up the front of the thigh (engaging the quadriceps along the way) and re-sets the top of the femur back.All of this time, I had just been pressing the thighs back. It would be like making the inner shift, without a corresponding outer shift.

During vacation, I was also catching up on the New Yorker, and there was a book review on experiments in green living by Elizabeth Kolbert that caught my attention. While these individual experiments might be well and good in terms of individual enlightenment about the impact of our lives on the environment and the excesses of modern day living, they fail to become more than mere stunts if the authors don’t take what they have learned toward making a real difference in the world. Kolbert takes issue with Colin Beavan’s “No Impact Man”, noting that his time might have been better spent trying to persuade his neighbors and building management to change the wasteful heating policy rather than simply turning off his own heat and living off the excess with his windows open in a New York winter. She finally suggests that a good sequel to his book might be: “Impact Man”.

This hit home with me, as it reminded me that what’s at stake in our practice of yoga (indeed, in life) is so much more than just our individual transformation and insight. Rather, it’s how we take what we have learned and make an impact on the world for the better. Back to the Thigh Loop, it reminded me why all of our principles of alignment begin to the back body, but end in the front body: the inner transformation must be made an outer, forward-looking offering in order for us to fulfill our practice. May we make an impact.

As soon as I made the adjustment, my lower back unlocked and forward bends have been a lot easier. How does this change the world? It doesn’t. But the process of understanding it was important, because it is a reminder that yoga has stakes much higher than forward bends.


  • Open to Grace: Remember that the stakes of a practice of yoga are greater than just individual transformation.
  • Muscle Energy: The engagement of our muscles is a reminder that our practice is one of engagement, to make an impact rather than to sit by passively.
  • Ankle Loop/Shin Loop: The Thigh Loop builds on the foundation of the lower two loops, so it’s important to get these established. Ankle Loop starts at the base of the shin and flows back and down the heel, lifts up through the arches and sets the base of the shin back again. The Shin Loop initiates in the same place, lifts up the back of the calves, presses the top of the shins forward, and then flows down the front of the leg to reconnect at the base of the shin. If the knees lock back into hyperextension in any straight-legged pose, it will be impossible to get the thighs to set back. (This is a result of the “see-saw principle”: if one end of a bone (or body part) moves in one direction, the opposite end will move in the other. So if the top of the shin presses back, the top of the thigh will press forward.)
  • Thigh Loop: With the lower two loops firmly established, go to the tops of the thigh bones, in the root of the pelvis. Press back and draw down through the backs of the legs, pressing the tops of the shins forward. I almost think of the tops of the thighs going back and the tops of the shins going forward as simultaneous actions, and this really helps keep the shin loop established and feel the lower half of thigh loop. As the top of the shin stabilizes, then quadriceps muscles now have a chance to engage and lift up toward the core of the pelvis. Use the quadriceps muscles eccentrically to press the thigh bones back again.
  • Organic Energy: Once everything is lined up, you can make a full offering, extending from the core of the pelvis down through the legs and back up through the spine.


  • Uttanasana: Begin with your knees bent, to ensure that the legs aren’t locked back into hyperextension. Lift and spread the toes to engage the legs. Keeping the knees bent, draw the base of the shins back so the heels press down and the arches lift. Then keeping the shins drawing back, lift the calf muscles and press the tops of the shins forward. Now activate the thigh loop, from the tops of the thighs pressing back, draw energy down the backs of the legs to the tops of the shins, so that the tops of the shins press forward even as the thighs press back. Go all the way to straight legs this way. You’ll find that you have access to your quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh. Use them to lift the front part of the thigh loop and set the femurs back again. Then extend fully down into the earth through straight legs.
  • Parsvottanasana, prasarita padottanasana, trikonasana, ardha chandrasana: In all of the straight-legged standing poses, the actions are the same as in uttanasna. Remember to begin with the knees bent and the legs engaged, and then work through the loops from the bottom up. As you press the tops of the thighs back, go to the bottom part of the thigh loop and engage the tops of the shins forward until you feel the quads fire, then bring the legs fully straight from that action.
  • Anjaneyasana (thigh stretch): When you do thigh stretches, hold the foot on the metatarsals (below the toes) so that you can flex the toes back. This actually helps you to increase Muscle Energy
  • Utthita hasta padangustasana, virabhadrasana 3: In the standing balances, it’s common for the knee to lock out. As a result, you’ll lose access to the Thigh Loop and the muscles of the quads. Build the loops from the bottom up, and remember to bring Thigh Loop forward through the top of the shin.
  • Ardha hanumanasana: I love this pose for the thigh loop, because you can see the effects on your legs when you get it activated. Also, having your heel pressing into the earth will help you to access the lower loops. Keep working the thigh loop until you see your quads tone and lift.
  • Anjaneyasana (thigh stretch): Just get one more juicy thigh stretch in before…
  • Hanumanasana
  • Trianga mukhaikapada pasicmottanasana, krounchasana: The forward bends can be challenging for creating good alignment in the legs and pelvis: because you have such a broad foundation, you will have less mobility. However, you can use the floor as a prop to help reinforce the actions of the loops. Press the base of the shin and heel down as you flex your foot an tone your calves. The floor will keep you from hyperextending, but to feel the top of the shin pressing forward even more, bring one hand under the calf muscle of the extended leg and lift the muscle up (toward the bone) as you root the base of the shin and the top of the thigh, bringing your leg all the way to straight. Notice how your lower back will draw in and up.
  • Upavista konasana: In stage one of any forward bend, the pelvis/legs are at 90 degrees, and the lower back (including the top of the sacrum and the lumbar vertebrae) should tip in and up into the body. So start upright, with your hands supporting you on the floor behind your pelvis. Engage the legs, press your ankles toward the earth, tone the calves and press the tops of your thighs down. As the thigh bones set back, re-assert the power of the tops of the shins pressing forward (up) until you can access your quads and draw them up towards your pelvis and root back down. Until your legs are flush to the earth, and until your lower back draws in and up, stay seated upright. Go to stage 2 of the forward bend only once you have a natural curve in your lower back and the thighs flush to the floor. This will ensure that there is length and space in your lower back as you bow forward.
  • Dandasana: This is the stage 1 forward bend of pascimottanasana. In my book, it’s one of the hardest poses on all of the syllabi (OK, my hamstrings are tight compared to the rest of my body), because you have both little mobility in the pelvis and legs and very little leverage. Lean back into your hands behind your pelvis to access the power of the legs. Keep your heels pressing down and calves toned, and then root those thighs DOWN until you feel your lower back draw in and up. Now you’re ready for…
  • Pascimottanasana

Everday Abdominals

I know how it is. I used to dread doing abdominals, too. They always felt like a weak point for me, and so I avoided abdominal exercises at all costs.

But then to my own joy I discovered that abdominal exercises are built right into the Universal Principles of Alignment, which is to say, if you’re doing the principles, you’re engaging and strengthening and stretching your abs in every pose.

This is the cool thing. Abdominal exercises need not be something that you only do in isolation, in the same way that a practice of yoga need not be something that you do only on a yoga mat. Instead of isolating the abs, or our yoga practice, from our everyday experience, how can we see that they are embedded in everything we do?


  • Open to Grace: Begin with a passive release with gravity from the pelvis into the earth
  • Muscle Energy: When you engage muscle energy, everything tones, and that includes the abdominal core.
  • Thigh Loop and Inner Spiral: These principles set the thigh bones back into the hip sockets, and keep the hip flexors soft when you engage your abs. The hip flexors tend to be strong, and they’ll easily overwork. It’s interesting how your body will try anything to avoid actually working those abs.
  • Pelvic Loop and Outer Spiral: Both of these principles help create more tone in the abdominal muscles. I find that Outer Spiral, which initiates with the waistline flowing back and the tailbone tucking under, creates more of a lift in the lower belly, while the Pelvic Loop, which also draws the waistline back but goes only down to the bottom of the sacrum and forward, engages more the lowest part of the abdominal core. Both principles together will give you an even tone through the abs. Note that the engagement of the abs initiates from the action of the back body (waistline back, tailbone and bottom of the sacrum down and in) rather than a contraction of the front. Of course, the front body does contract, but it’s more the fluid result of the engagement through the back body.
  • Organic Energy: Especially when the pelvis is the focal point, the stretch of Organic Energy through the bones of the body will give you tone and length in the abdominals.


  • Tadasana: Believe it or not, even tadasana is an opportunity to work your abs. In fact, if you’re truly standing upright, your abs will be engaged to support your stance. Try the tried-and-tested exercise of tadasana with a block between your inner thighs to feel the difference between Outer Spiral and Pelvic Loop. Engage the legs, activate Inner Spiral, turning the inseams of the legs back and wide. The block will move back as the tops of your thighs line up over your knees over your ankles. Notice how the belly might tend to distend with the action of Inner Spiral. Now add Outer Spiral, drawing the waistline back and scooping under through the tailbone. (To feel the lengthening of the tailbone, bring one finger to the tailbone and press the tailbone down into your finger.) Notice how the belly lifts with this action. Now do tadasana again, setting up in the same way, but instead of Outer Spiral, add the Pelvic Loop, which initiates by the waistline flowing back and then draws the bottom of the sacrum down and in. (To feel the action of the sacrum, bring one finger to the bottom of the sacrum/AKA top of the butt crack and draw that part down and forward into the body.) This will also tone the abs, but notice how it feels different from the action of Outer Spiral. To me, the tone is much lower from Pelvic Loop, and much more deeply integrated. Now root through the pelvis and legs and stretch your arms overhead, and you’ll get a stretch to those abs while they’re toned. Yes, this is how tadasana will always be performed in alignment. Everyday abs.
  • High lunge: When you come into the pose, notice the relationship between your back thigh and your belly. If you lift the back thigh to line it up in the hip socket, does the belly collapse forward? And if you try to lift your belly, does the back thigh pop forward? A healthy engagement will have both the back thigh rooting back (into the hip socket) without the belly distending, so keep the power in your back leg and then sweep the waistline back and draw down through the bottom of your sacrum to get the low belly to lift. If the front hip is resting on the front thigh, this signifies a lack of tone through the Outer Spiral or Pelvic Loop.
  • Parsvakonasana: Similarly, the low belly should be toned and lifting in this pose. Work through the principles in order. Getting Inner Spiral established is key to getting the tone in the lower belly without it pulling on your hip flexors or low back. Then once you have the thighs anchored back, draw back through the waistline and scoop under through the bottom of the tailbone/sacrum, especially on the front leg side, until the lower belly lifts up.
  • Thigh stretch (in pigeon pose or anjaneyasana): It’s always nice to do a thigh stretch (or more) before doing targeted abdominals, because that allows the hip flexors to soften and release rather than trying to pull you up. So do either of these thigh stretches. Watch in these poses how the belly and pelvis will tend to tip forward as you bring the back leg in. So keep good action in the legs (and especially the top of the back thigh BACK), and then add the Outer Spiral or Pelvic Loop to draw the waistline back and get the length in the lower back with a lift in the lower belly. The front hip should be lifting off the front thigh.
  • Supine abdominal exercises: Doing abdominal exercises in a supine position gives the thighs something to press against (i.e. the floor), and this feedback helps us know when the hip flexors are overriding the abs. I recommend using a block between the inner thighs or knees for all of these, because it helps to de-activate the hip flexors. Between each set do a bridge pose (setubandha) to lengthen the front body.
    • Use a block between your knees, and then bend them in so the thighs are vertical (knees right about your hips). Let the thigh bones release down into the hip sockets. Squeeze the block and then turn the inner thighs in and down until you feel the lower back arch lightly. Then lengthen the bottom of your sacrum long and into the body. From this action, you’ll feel the lower belly tone. Now bring your hands behind your head and begin doing little crunches. Yes, little crunches. In fact, you can do them in your head, and it will probably have a strong effect. The key is to keep the thighs released (curve in lower back) and the action of the bottom of the sacrum drawing into the body. The best part (to me) is on the way back down from the crunch. If you keep the tone, as you lengthen down (with Organic Energy, rather than dropping back to the floor), you get engagement and length in the abs simultaneously, and this is what I find really supports posture. Once you’ve done a few crunches up and down, try twisties (aiming toward one knee and then the other).
    • Take the block between your inner thighs, and bring the legs straight on the floor. Now the floor gives the feedback as to whether the tops of the thighs are indeed anchored down (with Inner Spiral/Thigh Loop). You should have a nice, lordotic curve in the lower back. Then add the Pelvic Loop, lengthening the bottom of the sacrum and drawing it into the body, without flattening the spine. Hands behind your head, and lift up! You can do little crunches, and also twisties (turning from side to side, bringing one elbow to the floor at a time), as long as the thighs stay anchored, the low back keeps its curve, and the bottom of the sacrum draws in. The twists will help you strengthen the obliques, while the straight-ahead crunches will help work out the rectus abdominus. All of them help tone the transverse abdominal muscle.
    • Jathara Parivartanasana: Take the block between your knees again, and bend the knees in to 90 degrees. Stretch both arms out to the sides, palms up. Work through the principles so you have a curve and length in the lower back, then begin twisting by bringing the knees to one side and then the other. Keep both shoulders on the ground (you’ll notice that, on the side that you’re twisting away from, the arm bone will want to lift off the floor) so that you really are working your abs to do this. To intensify the exercise, try first straightening one leg as you take the knees to the opposite side, and then straightening both legs on both sides.
    • Last one! With the block between your inner thighs and the legs straight up to the sky, bring both palms flat under your butt. Hug in to the block and turn the inner thighs in and down, so you have a curve in your lower back, and then let the pressure of your hands on your buttocks help to lengthen the spine. Then slowly bring the legs down to hover above the floor. Keep the inner thighs released, and the length in your lower back. You can do presses like this, or just release all the way down (one of these is often enough to fire up that rectus abdominus).
  • Parsvakonasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Parivrtta Parsvakonasana: Go through some standing poses with this heightened awareness of the tone in the lower belly. REMEMBER that the low belly lifts as a result of the action in the back body, so focus your attention on the tailbone/sacrum action of Outer Spiral and Pelvic Loop.
  • Virabhadrasana 3, Standing Splits: These two poses require a strong lift in the lower belly to keep the front hip from binding — and this lift must come from the back body
  • Handstand: Hopefully handstand will feel a little more easeful after all the work you’ve been doing. Note that the actions of Outer Spiral/Pelvic Loop are super important for finding balance here. Practice at the wall (set up as close as you can), getting the thighs back and then adding that length through the lower back. See if this new tone helps you to balance.
  • Anjaneyasana/Thigh Stretch: Especially in anjaneyasana and the thigh stretch variation, I find that the pelvis and belly like to hang out on the front thigh. So this is a good place to build a remembrance of engagement through Outer Spiral and Pelvic Loop.
  • Ustrasana: I love all of the backbends for finding tone and length in the abs, but ustrasana is particularly good to feel the length in the belly. Try doing it with a block between your inner thighs, to remind the thighs to stay back while you add Outer Spiral/Pelvic Loop. You’ll feel the abs tone even before you curl back into the pose. Use Organic Energy to keep the pelvis rooted while you lift up and out of the lower back/lower belly into the backbend, and you’ll get a deep stretch in the abs while they’re toned.
  • Cool down anyway you like.

How to Expand the Middle: 5 Steps to a Deeper Thigh Stretch

I just returned from the Advanced Intensive in Tucson with John Friend, and I’m pleased to report that I actually felt a thigh stretch. It was revelatory.

We were studying the Spanda-karikas, a rich and trippy Tantric text that is all about the nature of the universe (that means you) as pulsating, throbbing, vibrating consciousness. When I first learned about the idea of spanda several years ago, I went out and bought the book, thinking it sounded like a good read. Instead, it was rather impenetrable, much like any text on yoga philosophy that you pick up and try to read on your own. But going through the 52 verses of the Spanda-karikas with John’s guidance (he has his own translation and commentary in the works, and we got a limited first edition), group discussion, and intense asana practice, it seemed so practical and relevant to our everyday experience.

The verse that struck me this weekend was Stanza 17 (in Jaideva Singh’s translation):

“The fully enlightened has, always and incessantly, the undeviating knowledge of the Self in all the three states [waking, dreaming and dreamlessness]; the other one (viz. the partially enlightened) has it only at the beginning and end of each state.”

To me, what this verse is saying is that enlightenment is an everyday experience. We all get the hit of connection, whenever we’re in the excitement of the start of something new, or in the sweetness/bittersweetness of a cycle coming to an end. (Do you ever notice how you can drop really deep into meditation as soon as the bell to conclude rings? That’s it!) This is what we call abhisara — the peaks and the troughs of the waves are places of intense connection, where we are held “in intimacy with the divine” (Douglas Brooks‘ definition). We’re all going to get those moments of awakening in our lives, and the invitation is to cherish them but not cling to them, because they will come and go. We can’t live our lives always at the peak, or at the trough. Life moves in waves. Everything is spanda.

But there’s more here. Enlightenment is what we’ll get, whether we do yoga or not. So why do yoga? The key is the middle. We all have experienced the dullness of routine, whether it be in relationship, at work, or in our yoga practice. For as exciting as something may be the first time, after you’ve been doing it for a while it can get — let’s face it — boring. When you get used to something, you stop paying attention so carefully. This is that middle part of the wave.

What this verse is saying, I think, is that as we become more established in our yoga (our engagement of ourselves and the world), enlightenment becomes more and more everyday, not just at the beginning and end of cycles, but throughout the whole cycle.

It is no coincidence that Anusara’s principles of alignment also move in spanda, in pulsations and waves. They are meant to establish us in the spanda that is pulsing us.

All this is to say, here’s how you can get a deeper thigh stretch…

So when I announced to the YogaNerd class that we were going to do ONLY thigh stretches for 1.5 hours, I was met with the comment that “there are only really 3 thigh stretches, aren’t there?” Well no, actually.

You can get a thigh stretch in something as simple as a lunge (back leg) if you do it with a certain kind of alignment.

Three of the four quadriceps muscles (all but the rectus femoris) will stretch if you just bend your knee to full flexion (as their primary action is extension of the knee). The rectus femoris spans both the knee and the hip joint (as a hip flexor), and so in order to stretch this muscle you must also get extension at the hip. Similarly, the psoas muscle (which I include here, as it does cross the hip joint to attach at the lesser trocanter of the femur) will only get a stretch when the pelvis is in extension. That means that in such poses as anjaneyasana, the thigh stretch will only reach the rectus femoris and the psoas if the pelvis is tipped upright or (even better) back toward a backbend. If it tilts forward (as it will tend to do) so that the belly and (sometimes also) the top of the pelvis are resting on the front thigh, it’s really not getting in there.

Here’s how you line it up to get the most out of your thigh stretch:

  1. Soften and release passively with gravity. When you bring the foot in, keep your pelvis squared off to the front (you’ll probably need to turn toward the front leg side).
  2. Engage the muscles of the legs, particularly by drawing from the peripheral parts (feet, or knee when it’s on the floor as part of the foundation) to the focal point (usually the pelvis, in the poses below). When the leg is in ardha bekhasana variation, use your hand pressing down on the metatarsals (bring your foot all the way to the butt, really) while flexing your toes back toward your hand.
  3. Root the thigh bone back in the hip socket. If the top of the femur is pushed forward relative to the acetabulum, you’ll feel the stretch more at the tendon, rather than at the belly of the muscle (which is where we expand the middle). When the leg is in ardha bekhasana, press the base of the thigh bone (right above the kneecap) into the floor and drag it forward, so the skin and muscles on the front of the thigh draw up. This activates the thigh loop, and through see-saw principle, will root the top of the femur back into the hip socket. As much as you press your foot down toward your butt, keep the muscles on the front of the thigh drawing forward and up. If you feel the skin above the knee start to slide back, you know you’ve lost this action. Notice, however, how when you get the femur rooted back , the pelvis will want to tilt anteriorly. So, to get into the rectus femoris and the psoas, keep the top of the femur back and then…
  4. Get the pelvis upright, by drawing the tailbone (and bottom of the sacrum, and buttocks flesh) downward.
  5. Stretch that baby, extending from the focal point down into the earth and the back up and out through the spine.

Practice: Thigh stretch, thigh stretch.

Lunge: really, a lunge can be a thigh stretch, if you get the top of the femur rooted back AND simultaneously get the pelvis upright (or, why not?, moving toward a backbend)

Eka pada rajakapotasana 1: back leg in ardha bekhasana
Eka pada rajakapotasana 2, 3, 4: see above
Ninja variations: all of the EPRK poses can be done at the wall, with the back knee up against the wall. Work to bring the pelvis upright (even flush up against the wall). Try doing these with your back toes tucked under (onto the wall) and use your hand pressing down on the heel toward the floor to deepen the stretch

Ardha bekhasana: try this one by lifting your pelvis up off the floor at first (your front arm will be more like in cobra pose), so that you’re just on the base of the thighbone on the thigh stretch leg, then go through the steps above, lastly sliding your pelvis back to the floor without losing the action of drawing the base of the thighbone forward and up.

Supta virasana: as you go back in this pose, try lifting your pelvis up off the floor, and, keeping the tops of the thighs flowing down toward the floor, lengthen your tailbone and buttocks so much toward your knees that the pelvis comes to neutral.

Ustrasana: 1 leg in ardha bekhasana
Setubandha: 1 leg in ardha bekhasana
Urdhva dhanurasana: you get where this is going…

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