It’s time to get grounded. Letting go of unconscious holding in the physical body gives us the tools we need to release patterns of holding in our mental and emotional lives. Try this sequence I’ve been playing with at home and experience a deep connection to your foundation and yourself.
Virasana with rolled blanket behind the knees
Fold your blanket in half and then in half again. Roll the blanket, starting from the longest side, creating a homemade bolster. Come to stand on your knees (you can lay another blanket down under your shins as cushioning). Place the rolled blanket behind your knees. Lean forward and rest the crown of your head on the floor – this will lift your hips and allow you to wedge the blanket right into the crease of your knees. Slowly sit back on your heels and place a block on its medium height under your sit bones. You may feel some serious sensation in your calves! The pressure of the blanket helps to soften (read “pulverize”) the fascia around our chronically tight gastrocnemius (calf) muscles. Stay for 15-20 breaths. Focus on getting heavy in your shins, thighs, and pelvis. I find that adding Gomukasana arms helps to distract me from the showdown in my legs!
A personal favorite, this pose helps to stretch the fascia on the soles of your feet. Make sure all ten toes are well tucked and spread. Sit on your heels and lengthen up through your spine. Relax the face, jaw, and tongue. Again, shoulder openers are a convenient distraction, but sometimes it’s just better to sit still and focus on relaxing into the intensity.
Come to hands and knees. Reach your right leg back, straighten the knee fully, and tuck the right toes under. Be sure that the weight is evenly distributed across the ball of the foot. Stretch the center of your right heel straight back and take 5 deep breaths. Switch sides.
Uttanasana with Rolled Blanket
Using the same rolled blanket from Virasana, keeping your heels on the floor and place the balls of your feet up on the roll. Set up 2 blocks (you can also use your couch or a table for support) in front of the blanket. Lift your kneecaps up as you hinge your pelvis over your thighs and place your hands on the blocks. Hold 5-10 breaths. Repeat with the feet flat on the floor and observe the difference.
Come to Uttanasana with your feet hip distance apart. Slide your index and middle fingers inside the first and second toes and loop them under your big toes. Bring the tip of your thumbs to touch the tips of your index and middle fingers. Ground down into the big toe mounds and inner heels as you lift the inner arches of your feet up towards your inner knees. Press your big toe mounds down into your fingers as you pull up on your arms, as if you’re trying to pull your big toes off the ground. Straighten your arms and reach your sternum forward. Elongate the sides of your waist. Maintain this length as you bend your elbows any amount out to the sides; spread your collarbones and shoulder blades wide apart. Pull up on the big toes to lengthen the side waist towards the floor. Maintain a strong lift in the quadriceps and hamstrings.
Parsvottanasana with Rolled Blanket
Same concept as Uttanasana. Place the ball of your right front foot on the blanket and carefully step the other foot back. Lift the quadriceps and hinge at your hips, reach the sternum forward and place your hands on blocks (or the floor, depending on your hamstring flexibility). Roll the weight in your front foot from the little-toe side to the big-toe side as you draw the right outer hip towards the back inner heel. Hold 5-10 breaths and repeat on the left leg.
Sukasana Forward Bend
Come to sit and extend your legs out in front of you into Dandasana. Bend your left knee and place the left ankle underneath your right knee. The left shin should be parallel with the front edge of your mat. Bend your right knee and place the right shin in front of the left. Reach your fingertips onto the floor in front of you and take a breath. “Push” the floor forward with your hands in order to ground your pelvis back and down. Inhale and lengthen all four sides of your torso up evenly and as you exhale, gently draw the navel towards the spine and walk the fingers forward a few inches. Breathe. Relax any gripping you feel in your hips, groins, or face before moving deeper into the stretch. Hold 10-15 breaths and then slowly come up to sit. Change the cross of your shins and repeat.
Lie on your back and place a belt around the ball of your right foot. As you gently pull down on the belt, you will feel a deeper stretch in your calf and Achilles tendon. Take a few breaths here—arms straight, collar bones spread, outer shoulders pinned into the mat. Then take the belt into your left hand and cross the right leg over the midline in line with your left shoulder. You can stretch the outer calf (the peroneal muscles) by sickling the ankle so the sole of the foot faces the wall to your left. Take a few breaths and then switch sides.
Photo Credit: Hailey Wist