How many times have you been in downward facing dog and your yoga instructor (me included) said “just step your foot through to the top of your mat”? Was your immediate reaction to think that’s never going to happen? Or does your foot always get stuck about half way up the mat? Let’s breakdown what might be stopping you, and then go over some drills to help get you there.
As you make this transition you are contracting through the abdominals. You are also contracting your hip flexors. So you need both low belly and hip flexor strength to make this action happen.
Let’s break down the motion a bit further:
1. As you lift your leg up, you also want to lift the hips up as high as they can go, before you start to draw the thigh in to the belly.
2. Keep the thigh connected to the belly. If the leg is too low, you’re not going to be able to step it through. This requires core strength as well (more on how to work towards this below).
3. As you shift forward, bring more weight in to the opposite hand from the leg which is stepping forward. Then lift up to the fingertips of the same side as is stepping through, to make yourself more space. If you feel your arms are ‘too short’ – they aren’t – but you can fake it until you make it by placing blocks under the palms as you start to work towards this transition.
4. Look forward past the hands. If you look back to the leg that is moving through, you aren’t making the space for the leg to come through.
1. Three-Legged Dog then Knee to Nose: From down dog, inhale and kick your right leg up high. Exhale, shifting shoulders forward over the wrists, and draw knee towards nose – contracting the spine. Repeat this several times through on each side. Ending with holding for a few breaths while contracted in.
2. Table Top Variation: Same motion as above. Set up in table top. Extend the right leg back, keeping hip and toes pointing down. As you exhale tap knee to the nose. Work on squeezing and strengthening the hip flexors. Inhale to extend back and repeat. Eventually see if you can step the foot through in this table top position.
3. Standing: Lean on to the left leg, and draw the right knee up to hip height. Squeeze and lift, keeping the hips even. Hold here for several breaths. To go further, extend the leg out. Maybe pulse the leg up and down a few inches.
Watch the full tutorial video below
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