As we enter into the heart of the summer, many Yoga practitioners are beginning to enjoy a challenging and vigorous outdoor exercise regime. Those of us who spend a lot of time indoors during the colder winter months often participate in a variety of outdoor activities during the summertime. Depending on where you live and the availability of different outdoor activities, you may choose to go backpacking, play in a tennis league, surf, or even learn how to rock climb. You may even choose to do several of these activities over the course of the summertime, in addition to your regular Yoga practice.
The choices of outdoor activities are almost endless during the warm summer months. However, when we increase the frequency and intensity of our workouts, particularly if we begin to participate in a new sport, the risk of developing a sports-related injury also increases. Practicing Yoga asanas several times a week will help to keep your muscles and ligaments limber and strong. Yoga asanas are also a wonderful tool to keep your body’s musculature in correct alignment, which helps to reduce the risk of injuries due to incorrect physical form when you are cross-training.
* Ardha Hanumanasana or Kneeling Half Split Pose
Ardha Hanumanasana is a very accessible and effective Yoga pose for stretching out the entire back side of the legs including the hamstrings, hips, calves, and lower back. Additionally, Kneeling Half Split Pose also relieves sciatica pain, which often originates due to tightness in the lower back. Many athletic activities shorten the hamstring muscles, which puts pressure on the lower back muscles.
Running on pavement and playing tennis are two activities that can very quickly tighten your hamstring and calf muscles, particularly if you play on a hard court or run on pavement. By incorporating Ardha Hanumanasana or Kneeling Half Split Pose into your Yoga practice, you will regularly lengthen all of the muscles along the backside of your legs, including your calf, hip and hamstring muscles. In this way, your Yoga practice will help to facilitate improved athletic performance by keeping your muscles and ligaments limber and strong.
To practice Kneeling Half Split Pose, it is recommended that you warm up first with a series of Sun Salutations. This pose can be incorporated into your practice of either Sun Salutation A or B. This posture can also be practiced a stand-alone Yoga asana if you are short on time and careful not to overextend your stretch. When you are ready to practice Kneeling Half Split Pose move into Downward Facing Dog Pose, and then drop to your knees on your Yoga mat. If your knees are sensitive, you may find that placing a folded blanket on your mat makes the pose more comfortable and enjoyable.
With an inhale, extend your right leg in front of you on your Yoga mat. Keep the toes of your right foot facing towards the ceiling or sky. With your next exhale, lean forward and place your hands on your mat as far forward as you can comfortably extend today. Keep your fingers facing the front of your Yoga mat. As the tension in your legs and hips begins to release, you may find that you can extend your reach a little further. Square your hips by pulling your right hip gently back in alignment with your left hip if your right hip has crept forward a bit. Hold Ardha Hanumanasana for several full, complete breaths.
Mindfully inhale and exhale completely as you hold the posture. Keep your gaze on a steady point in front of you. If you feel any pain in the hamstrings, hip or groin muscles, ease the intensity of the pose by shortening the reach of your arms until your feel a nice stretch without pain. When you have completed your practice of Kneeling Half Split Pose on the right side, release the posture and move slowly and deliberately back into Downward Facing Dog. When you are ready, repeat Kneeling Half Split Pose on the left side, and then rest briefly in Child’s Pose before continuing on with the rest of your Yoga practice.
© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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