This week, my pal Ellie Bernstein and I are hosting a little Instagram challenge #GetYourHanumanOn as we prepare to travel to Boulder for my favorite yoga festival, Hanuman Festival! Hanumanasana, or squared hip splits is a big posture that can be very challenging! This asana necessarily requires patient opening of the hips, hamstrings as well as the quadriceps. It encourages us to cultivate a burning desire to work towards a long-term goal of a pose that may never show up in our bodies. It demands that we check our ego at the door, so we can avoid pushing too far, too fast. Working towards Hanumanasana just might help us open the back line of fascia that often tightens causing problems up the back chain of our bodies. It could help open our hip flexors that tighten due to our desk jobs and sedetary lifestyles. Finally, it teaches us that if we have faith in the work, reaching the asana will simply be icing on the cake.
The above sequence can be done anywhere, anytime. Once in Parsvottanasana, you can step back into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) or forward into Uttanasana (forward fold). It can even be added onto your Sun Salutations to make a mini flow!
To illustrate how our bodies are kinetic chains and that everything is truly connected, let’s examine my imbalances. . . in my body (not my mind – that could take years!). I have over developed upper traps, weak or longer lower traps, strong, tight shoulders and tight back extensors or QL muscles (those muscles on either side of your spine that when tight are NO HELP AT ALL IN backbends). I have a curve in my upper back (kyphosis) and a large c-curve in my lower back (lordosis). From the side, I basically look like an “S”, which is convenient only for charades! I would say my hamstrings are normal. I like to stretch them. My hip flexors (which include the psoas) are tight and my glutes are weak (we refer to it as pancake butt in my family). This all makes postures like boat pose and wheel painfully hard!
If we examine these issues, we can start to see how it moves from the bottom creating a chain reaction. Therefore, the pain in my neck and shoulders can have everything to do with my tight quadriceps.
My quads and hip flexors are tight, which contribute to tilting my pelvis forward.
The opposing weaker muscles, the hamstrings and glutes respectively, allow this anterior tilt to occur.
As a result of the anterior or forward tilt of my pelvic bowl, my low back moves into lordosis (c-curve).
The lordosis then shortens and tightens my QL muscles/back extensors.
The lordosis in my lower back compresses vertebrae and then causes the opposing curve in the upper spine, kyphosis (hunch back).
My shoulders roll forward and push my head forward causing the upper traps to shorten and tighten – this also lengthens and weakens my lower traps (the opposing muscles that help draw my shoulders down)
The forward movement of my head then pulls on my neck muscles creating tightness and tension in my neck and shoulders and putting extra force on my spine.
To find out more about your postural alignment and identify your patterns, see four common types here. . .