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Technique Tuesday - Open Hips and Shoulders Pt. 3

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We continue our exploration of a hips and shoulders opening flow this week, with a level 3 variation. This is the "most advanced" variation of the gentle flow we started 2 weeks ago. For more modifications, be sure to check out last Tuesday's post for Part 2, or the previous Tuesday's post to that for part 1.

We are doing a slow progression here as I wanted you to take the time to feel which flow feels best for your body - here's the thing - even if you can do the most advanced variation, as I'm showing here today - it may not feel the best for your body, or even give you the stretch you're looking for. In my own body, for example, my fronts of my hips are very tight, and while this advanced version is easy for me, if my hips are really tight, the level 2 version (last week's post) actually gives me the best way to open. Try it. Experiment. Do what is best for your body - sometimes the hardest pose isn't the one that you actually need!

Try this 3-4 times on each side, and try different lengths of time as well - maybe a few breaths the first round, working up to perhaps a minute on each side for your final round. Remember to take your time, modify or rest whenever you need, and never force your body.

This is the level 3 version of this sequence, suitable for most beginners and beyond - and please know that while I am showing downward facing dog in this video, if that is too much for your shoulders, or you are tired, or just not wanting to do downward facing dog, you can do this from table pose. Many find it easier to move their legs forward and back from downward facing dog as it gives more space for the legs, but do what suits you.

Starting in downward facing dog or table, feel your palms pushing into the mat, pushing the ground away from you. Release your shoulders away from your ears, and let your head hang heavy to release the top of the spine. Feel your sit bones tilting towards the sky as you may feel a gentle stretch along your shoulders, arms, and down the backs of your legs. Knees can be bent, and heels can be off the floor - try not to lift them up deliberately, just try to intend them towards the floor. Try to spend a few breaths here preparing, and feeling the nice opening in the shoulders and hips. Feel the weightlessness of the abdomen as it naturally tries to pull in and up towards the ribs.

Engaging your abdominals and shoulders, inhale and bring your right foot to the mat at the outside of your right hand, extending through your back heel, trying to lengthen the back knee as much as possible. Feel your heart and ribs broadening, shoulders wide, as you perhaps look forwards.

Now ground your left hand onto your mat under your left shoulder, and slowly reach your right fingertips to the sky, opening your chest to the right. Alternatively, if your shoulders are too tight, put your right fingertips on the side of your head and open your right elbow, chest and torso to the right. Take a few breaths here. Feel the back of the right hip, thigh and buttock as it gently stretches, feel the front of your left hip as it gently opens. Feel this gentle twist through your spine, feel your right side ribs opening, and left side gently compressing.

On an exhale, bring your right hand back to the mat on the inside of your right foot, press both palms into the mat, bring your right foot back to the start, returning to downward facing dog or table pose. Take a breath or two, and then try the other side.

Try this a few times on each side, then maybe try to move on your own - feel what your body is telling you it needs. Then, when you're feeling finished, give yourself some wiggle room - some free movement in table or even just resting in child's pose and see how you feel. Maybe do a plank and see how those shoulders and hips are able to better stabilize. Notice your physical body - especially how your hips and shoulders feel, your breathing, your thoughts, emotions. Take a few more breaths and give yourself a pat on the back for taking a few minutes to take good care of yourself, body, breath and mind.

Good job!
Meghann

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