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Yoga is one of the best mind-body exercises you can do. It holds your body in positions that release tension and allow flexibility while strengthening the supporting limbs and centering the mind. But in addition to stances, there are some great yoga leg stretches you can benefit from.
In today’s video, yoga wellness coach Shishir Inocalla shows you a simple flow of three yoga standing leg stretches that will stretch a different part of your legs or hips, release tension in the joints and strengthen the supporting leg. They seem simple but the balance factor makes them challenging. Just take your time and soon you’ll be able to do it as well as Shishir.
To begin, stand erect, feet together, hand in Namaste gratitude position.
Knee to chest
Bring your left leg upward and grab your knee with both hands.
You can begin stretching and relaxing the muscles of the hip and buttocks by moving your knee side to side in small increments. You will do this until you feel a connection in the area where it is held nicely in place for a stretch, then hold steady in the position.
In this position, you can straighten your foot and wiggle your toes.
Hold these leg stretches, trying not to wobble on the supporting leg, for 30 seconds to a minute.
Extend the leg
From here you will stretch the hamstrings, those muscles on the bottom of the thigh, by extending your leg forward at the same level. If it is too difficult you can extend the leg at a lower level, while still balancing on the right leg.
To help support the leg extension you can hold the bottom of your thigh with both hands or, if you are more flexible, you can hold onto the sole of your extended foot.
Hold this leg stretch, trying not to wobble on the supporting leg, for 30 seconds to a minute.
Relax and breathe
Lower your left leg back down so both feet are on the floor. Be loose and light as you relax your body by moving in all directions slowly. Moving your arms up and down also helps facilitate the relaxation between leg stretches.
Repeat knee lift and leg extension
After 30 seconds or so of relaxing the body you will then repeat the above two stretches with the right leg, balancing on the left leg.
First you will raise your right knee and embrace it with your arms. Move your knee to help loosen the hips and then hold the stretch for 30 – 60 seconds.
Follow this by extending your right leg in front and either supporting the weight and balance by holding the hamstrings with the hands or holding the sole of the foot. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.
Relax and breathe
Again lower your left leg back down so both feet are on the floor. Be loose and light as you relax your body by moving in all directions slowly. Moving your arms up and down also helps facilitate the relaxation between stretches.
Now raise your left foot to your butt and grab hold of your left ankle or instep. This will stretch the quadriceps or the muscles of the front of the thigh. Hold for 30-60 seconds without wobbling if you can.
If you would like more of a challenge you can move into the yoga dancer’s pose by gently reaching up with your right hand and pull up your left foot with your left hand. This will create a more dynamic balance and a much deeper thigh stretch. The more you lean forward the more difficult the balance and deeper the leg stretch.
To help with balance, breathe steady and focus on a single spot in front of you to find stillness in your body. Hold for 30 seconds or longer as you wish.
Now relax and breathe again, then repeat the dancer’s pose on the other side.
If other parts of your body could use a good stretch, check out my post on stretches for shoulders, upper back and neck.