The ankle to forehead stretch pictured above (yes, that's me) is designed to scientifically stretch the hip area. It tones and firms the muscles and connective tissues of the hips and hip joints and benefits the great sciatic nerve. I have been doing this pose for years and enjoy how it opens the hip area. Well, I learn something new every time I read the Yoga Journal and the June 2010 issue included an article on hip opening poses in the home practice section.
Not only do such poses open and stretch the hips but they also can reduce or eliminate back pain and improve circulation in the legs. What I also found interesting and did not know was that according to a least one yoga teacher, hip opening poses help release negative emotions! Now how does that work? Well, yoga teacher Stephanie Synder claims that "we hold stress and negative emotions (fear, guilt, and sadness) in our pelvis which apparently can function like a junk drawer where we toss feelings and experiences we can't handle at a given time. She asserts therefore that it's important to do poses that move "prana" or life energy into that area to clear out the clogged pelvis drawer. It's just another example of how your yoga practice benefits more than your physical wellbeing.
What I also appreciate about Synder's philosophy is that she advocates going slowly, taking time to open your hips and being aware of and receptive to your breath as you move into the pose. In so doing, she says you can make your practice, "delicious." These are essential tips that beginning yogis should always observe to gain maximum benefits from their yoga regime.
Yours for clearing negative emotions,
Laura Venecia Rodriguez