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Half Hero Pose: Television Yoga for Tight Quads
One of the most fruitful areas for a new yoga practitioner to explore is something I call “television yoga.”
It’s not a formal practice. You don’t have to put on special clothes, roll out a mat, or light a candle. And if you watch TV, talk on the phone, or sit and listen to music, you don’t even have to make time for it. You just have to be willing to devote some of your sitting-down time to gentle, intelligent work with your body.
Stretch Your Quads and Hip Flexors: Half Hero Pose
If you’d like to stretch out tight quadriceps (front thigh) muscles, it’s hard to beat Ardha Virasana (Half Hero Pose).
Sit on the floor with some yoga blocks, or a stack of books, at your side.
Bend one leg back into Hero Pose (Virasana). Bend the other knee and rest your foot on the floor.
Put as many blocks, or books, under your buttocks as you need to sit comfortably. Unbreakable rule: you should have no pain in the knee that’s bent into Hero Pose. Even if all you feel is just a small electrical pulse running across the front of your knee, sit with your hips higher.
Check that your Hero Pose knee faces directly forward, and that your inner ankle draws toward the foam blocks.
Now lean back, supporting yourself with your hands. Curl your tailbone toward your pubic bone.
Draw the same thigh bone deeper into your hip socket. Find an intense but still pleasant stretch in your front thigh muscles.
Hold it for at least a minute, preferably longer. Then change sides.
For most of us, one side is noticeably tighter than the other side. Once you know which is which, start on your tight side, alternate with the easier side, then give the tight side an extra minute or two of stretch.
As your tight front thighs begin to loosen, you will need fewer blocks. Eventually, you may be able to lie down with one leg in Virasana.
Half Hero Pose Benefits
Do this as television yoga, and you’ll have the joy of knowing that you’re not just vegging, you’re helping your body gain some flexibility. Do it daily for at least five minutes, and the next time you do Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose) (right) in class, you’ll find a different, more open pose.
The quads are among the strongest muscles in your body. Keeping them strong but flexible helps prevent knee injuries. And as you move more deeply into your yoga practice, flexible front thighs will give your backbends more freedom.
How to Sequence Half Hero Pose into Your Yoga Practice
Any time you’re sitting down and relaxing, you have an opportunity to stretch your front thighs in Half Hero Pose. In a longer practice, Half Hero Pose is especially helpful before lunges and backbends. If your practice includes Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) (photo right with bolster), working one leg at a time as preparation will help you move more easily into the full pose.
Cautions: Protecting Your Knees and Ankles
If your front thighs are tight, go slowly. As you lean back, find the first place you feel a stretch. Stay there and breathe. Resist the temptation to push into pain.
• If the front of your ankle hurts, put a rolled-up facecloth under the ankle joint.
• If the back of your bent knee feels compressed, come up to kneeling and put a folded yoga strap, or a folded sock or face cloth deep into the knee joint at the back of your knee.
If you can’t get a good front thigh stretch without compressing your knee, don’t work with this position. Talk to your teacher about alternatives.
Study with master teacher, Julie Gudmestad and YogaUOnline--Anatomy-Based Yoga Teaching Methodology: Principles of Safe Forward Bending.
Reprinted with permission from Eve Johnson, My 5-Minute Yoga Practice.
Eve Johnson taught Iyengar Yoga for 18 years before being introduced to Spinefulness in 2016. Convinced by the logic, clarity, and effectiveness of Spineful alignment, she took the teacher training course and certified in July 2018. Eve teaches both Spinefulness and Spineful Yoga at Prodigy Movement, in Vancouver. For class information, go to http://spinefulness.ca.