Tension prevents us from letting go. Muscle tightness and the often chronic patterns of holding in our fascia make it almost impossible to feel a sense of release in our body. It’s the difference between swimming upstream and floating with the current. In our legs, especially, tension creates blockages that restrict our ability to relate to gravity. Instead of being able to exhale into the ground, tension keeps us holding on to the edge of the proverbial cliff.
I invite you to try this stretch at home to address the chronic tightness in the lower legs. Roll up a blanket (the thicker the roll, the more intense the stretch). Place the balls of your feet up on the roll, hip’s distance apart. Breathing here in Tadasana, you may find that this is quite enough, thank you very much! If that’s the case, relax wherever you can and take about ten easy breaths here. If you’d like to move into the forward bend, hinge at your hips and place your hands on something for support – the edge of a table or chair, two yoga blocks, or the floor, depending on the height you need. Go slow and be mindful; don’t make any assumptions about how far you think you need to go.
The tendency will be to shift your weight back into your heels, and for good reason – your body is looking for a way around the tightness! Using your breath as your guide, shift forward until the hips stack over the heels. Those of you who hyper-extend your knees, think about moving the calves forward into the shins so that your legs are perpendicular with the floor, and then lift your thighs and hips up any amount to straighten your knees.
I think the best part of this stretch is when it’s over! No, I mean it! When you step off of the blanket you will feel simultaneously grounded and light. Your body weight will flow like a waterfall through your legs and into the floor. This stretch constantly teaches me to loosen my grip, both in my body and in my life; I’m reminded that grounding can only happen when I let go.