This tutorial was previously published on June 24, 2015.
If you read my last yoga piece, you know that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the Ashtanga yoga method. While a lot of the postures are familiar to practitioners of other yoga styles, there are a number of really unique postures that test one’s flexibility, strength, and humility that you just can’t find in a Vinyasa class. (Feel free to differ in the comments section, Vinyasa devotees 🙂 )
Experiencing tight hips is a common denominator among yogis and non-yogis alike, but I’ve found that Ashtanga postures often require a lot of flexibility in the pelvic area. The Primary Series introduces a range of hip opening asanas–from basic to challenging–that become easier over time with consistent practice.
Try these four hip openers to increase flexibility within your practice. Remember to be patient and ease into each posture gently–one day, the flexibility will come 🙂
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
Begin by standing on your mat and fold the left leg into half lotus, making sure your knee is pointing downward. If this feels painful for your knee, come into tree pose and press the foot into the groin.
Next, extend and wrap your left arm around your back, catching the toes of the left foot. If you cannot reach your toes, hold onto your waist or shirt. Engaging the core and bandhas, fold over your standing leg. Make sure to engage your thigh and relax the hips to pull yourself closer to your standing leg. Eventually, you want to be able to touch your chin to your shin. Stay here for five breaths and gaze at the tip of your nose.
Janu Sirsasana A
Start seated on your mat with both legs in front of you. Bend your left leg and place the sole of your foot against your groin.
Pull your lower abdomen towards your spine and fold forward, making sure to lengthen the spine as much as possible. If your hamstrings are flexible enough wrap your arms around the outside of your foot, grabbing the right wrist with the left hand. Relax the neck and place your chin on your shin. Hold for five breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Start seated on your mat with both legs in front of you. Bend both legs enough so that you can easily thread your arms and shoulders through. Starting with the left arm, thread it underneath the left leg. Repeat with the right arm.
With both arms now underneath the legs, begin to lower your upper body while lengthening the legs. Remember to suck in the lower abdomen as much as possible.
Once the torso is fully on the ground and the legs are fully extended, engage the legs so much that your heels lift off the ground. With your chin resting on the ground, gaze at the tip of the nose and hold for five breaths.
Begin in lotus position, making sure your feet are as close to your body as possible.
Next, engage the core and put your arms through the opening between the thigh and calf (if you are having trouble getting your arms through spray a little water on the opening to help them slide through). Once both forearms are all the way through, reach the hands to your face and hold your ears. Gaze at the tip of the nose and hold for five breaths.
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Photo: Molly Lansdowne