The ankle to forehead stretch from the side (shown above) and from the front (shown below)
The ankle to forehead stretch is wonderful for stretching the muscles around your hips and keeping your hips open. It furthermore counteracts the imbalances that a sedentary lifestyle can create.
A while back, I wrote about how important it is to open the muscles in and surrounding your hips if you have a sedentary profession. Well, since the previous post in which I shared information about the book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, I have come across more information about how vital hip opening poses are, especially when you sit too many hours during the day.
In the latest issue of Yoga Journal, yoga instructor Ray Long shares that years ago he asked B.K.S. Iyengar, "what's the key to mastering yoga?"
Iyengar replied, "To master yoga, you must balance the energies and forces throughout the body."
In subsequent years, Long studied this concept and he said that he learned that "balancing forces is particularly crucial when it comes to addressing the feeling of 'tightness' many of us have in our hips." This tightness often results from sitting too long during the day. Also, sitting leads to shortened hip flexors and weak hip extensors which in turn cause the hamstrings to work harder.
Stretching the muscles around the hips helps to maintain healthy mobility. And, one of my favorite ways to do this (which I have written about before, but "repetition is the mother of skill," as motivational speaker Tony Robbins used to say) is by doing the ankle to forehead stretch shown above. I do this pose during every yoga practice (six times a week) and I continue to reap the benefits.
Here are the instructions for how to do this excellent yoga pose from my book, Yoga at Home: Gain Energy, Flexibility, and Serenity in 20-30 Minutes a Day.
Start out gradually and enjoy!
Ankle to Forehead Stretch
Type of yoga pose: Supine (seated) pose
Body parts targeted: Hips, hip joints, sciatic nerve, legs, and upper arms.
How to do the pose:
Sit on your mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Your toes and heels should be together.
- Bend your left leg at the knee and bring your left foot toward you so you can grasp it with your hands.
- Take your left hand and place it under your ankle over the region of your outer ankle bone.
- Grasp your leg foot with your right hand holding it with a firm (but not tight) grip around the arch.
- Using the strength of your arms and bending your head forward as far as your balance will allow you, lift your left leg up drawing your ankle toward your forehead.
- When you have reached your forehead with the inside or your ankle or have brought your ankle as close to your forehead as you comfortably can, lift your left leg up drawing your ankle toward your forehead.
- Hold this pose for 5 seconds inhaling and exhaling as needed.
- Slowly lower your left leg back to the mat taking at least 3-5 seconds. Inhale and exhale deeply for at least one full breath.
- Stretch your left leg out in front of you and perform the same movements with the other (right) leg.
Practice time: Start by holding the pose for 5 seconds during the first week and add a few seconds each week until you can hold the pose for 30 seconds.
Number of repetitions: 1-2
Key benefits from this pose:
Stretches, tones, and firms the muscles and connective tissues of the hips. Opens the hips.
- Acts as a therapeutic treatment for the hip joints and benefits the sciatic nerve.
- Tones, beautifies, and increases flexibility in the legs.
- Strengthens upper arms.
Special hints and my experience with this pose:
I really feel the stretch and strengthening benefits of this pose each time I perform it.
When you first do this pose, you may be unable to you ankle with your forehead. This signals just how much your hips and the muscular area where the thighs and buttocks join need to unwind and loosen up. As I suggest when you start other poses, think “baby steps.” There’s no race or competition. Bring your foot as close to your forehead as you can without causing yourself pain and hold your stretch firmly at that farthest point.
With consistent practice, your body will ease up, you will regain normal flexibility, and soon you will be able to bring your ankle to your forehead. Once you can reach your forehead with your ankle, hold the pose motionless for the stipulated time.
Yours for balancing the energies and forces throughout your body with daily yoga,