Greetings from Mysore!
Together with my husband, Simon, I am really missing everyone back home in our Edinburgh Shala. He is studying with Saraswati in her Shala while I am in the main Shala with Sharath, both of us thoroughly enjoying the intensity of continued study with our teachers here at the KPJAYI.
It has been a transformative month of self practice so far, after the first week of Led classes, Sharath gave me Eka Pada Sirsasana (one foot behind the head pose) and invited me along to the Led Intermediate class on Mondays.
“Eka Pada” is one of the gateway postures that sets you up for a series of similar asanas that explore a particular movement. In this case, we are externally rotating, abducting, and flexing the hip to maximum volume in all directions! Additionally, once the leg is on its way behind the head, you have to strongly extend the spine in order to keep the foot back there- very tricky and seemingly conflicting movements, all but impossible until you’ve milked the hip rotation for all it’s worth. Every multimeter of this journey can take years of gradual, compassionate practice.
I have been using a myofascial release technique to free up the tissues around my hips, and thought I would share the process with some of you who are working on the same area.
First, grab yourself a couple of tennis balls and get comfortable! Make sure you’ve done a few namaskaras to warm up, and then settle into pigeon pose. Our aim is to get the tibia (from knee to ankle) parallel to the short front line of your mat, at the same time micromanaging the back leg with gentle flex/releasings (let’s just call it “wiggle”!) until it is parallel to the long mat line.
This arrangement in itself is quite advanced – take your time! If this isn’t possible now, then hold off on attempting Eka Pada until your teacher advises trying it.
If you’ve been given Eka Pada by your teacher and you’re comfortably managing deep pigeon pose, then it makes sense to continue with the exercise. Carefully place your tennis balls under that front leg, in between what is referred to as the IT Band (illiotibial band) and the floor. The ITB is really not a band in actuality, but a thickening of continuous fascia that interconnects seamlessly with the fascias of the hip, knee, groin, and work you do here will track contralaterally into the opposite leg as well.
The second tennis ball is your rover, you can place this ball under the lateral aspect of the knee and start rolling rhythmically (wiggling) around on the balls as you take deep breaths. Give it time. Remember to occasionally check in with the back leg to ensure that it’s anterior surface is facing the floor and that you are tracking it further back as you settle into the position.
Make sure you are NOT holding your breath! This action will knead your tissues and it should start to feel tolerable and at some point it will even feel good. But if you’ve got heaps of tension and tightness in those lateral “band” tissues, this will be quite nippy and you have to be completely committed to using your breath as a massaging force to find the safe wave and ride it in. If you hold your breath and “force” it, you’ll endanger your knees, which is the very opposite of what we are trying to accomplish here.
Once you’ve done both the right and left sides, lingering in downward dog between the sides, then swing the back leg up front and bring the soles of the feet towards each other. Place the tennis balls under your ischial tuberosities, aka “sitting bones” and wiggle around a bit until you find the balance. Sit up really talk and elevate your ribcage as you tip forward and backward over the balls. Breathe deeply. Bring the heels of your hands to your inner thighs and firmly encourage externally rotation of the soft tissues around the femurs, and then lean into it and feel the femurs roll out further, continuing the deep breathing with sound. Breathe and work the external rotation, open the feet to show the soles upwards and keep work the torso up, out, and down, progressively working your forehead towards the floor.
Keep the tennis balls working actively under your seat into the soft tissues of your hamstrings and gluteals, and by transmission all the conjoining myofascia. These long tubes of muscle attach on the sitting bones and as you anteriorly tilt your pelvis you can direct the tennis balls towards your groin. Many yogis have sore hamstring/adductors and this action can either alleviate the chronic tightness or exacerbate pain, so adjust your dosage accordingly as this is powerful medicine!
For me, this work in combination with the stuff I’ve been doing on the body wall has made A HUGE DIFFERENCE in my practice. I hope maybe some of you will find it useful too.
If you want more from me, please connect on social media and fire me any questions you may have.