more on upper legs

I  am intrigued by yoga’s impact on our anatomy and movement. I plan to  dedicate the next few blogs to different parts of the body, their anatomy, and safe movement.

We do yoga to feel good; yoga is not meant to be painful. Learning to move safely is most definitely in our best interest.  It is also our personal responsibility.  You know your body, what hurts; what does not. Pain does not serve us. I don’t believe in the “No pain; no gain” philosophy.  There is a difference in an area feeling like it is being worked and frank pain. Never continue in a pose when there is pain. If you are not sure if a pose is hurting you more than helping you, just back off a little.  Remember: yoga classes are a safe place where there is no judgment and no competition.  You do what you need to do and leave the rest for another day.  Your life won’t change that much if you can do some yoga pose or not!

Last week I blogged about tight quadriceps and how to start loosening them up. Kneeling poses are where I really felt the tightness in the top of my thighs and into my knees. We really want to protect the knee joint so any surrounding muscles need to be in optimal health and condition. I also feel the problem in tree pose; my foot does not go much higher than my knee.

The action of bending our knee results in a lengthening of our quadriceps and a contraction in our hamstring.  When we straighten our knee, the opposite happens, the hamstrings stretch  out and the quadriceps contract.  When those of us with hyper-extended knees sit back into our knees, the quadriceps contract even more and the hamstrings stretch even more.  Minimizing this hyper-extension will help let the quadriceps stop over working throughout the day.  This is a  very hard habit to break!

In the meantime we continue to use blocks in Hero pose (Virasana) to protect our knees and allow our quadriceps to gently.  Simple kneeling pose (Bhujrasana) also offers this gentle stretch and can also be done using a folded blanket or block. These two poses offer other physical benefits than just quadriceps stretching.  They are beneficial for the lower back, the hips, knees, and ankles.  It stimulates both thyroid and parathyroid activity and helps relieve high blood pressure.  Besides these physical benefits these two poses also help calm your mind and sooth the nervous system. So, sit into either one of these poses comfortably and relax your mind for a while as you let all these things just happen naturally.  You don’t have to feel a majorly strong stretch. Let the stretch happen as passively as possible.

The quadricep muscles attach at the knee area and also at the front of the hips.  Stretching the hip flexor area will help loosen the quadriceps also.  Lying face down in Half Frog pose (Ardha Bhekasana) is a great way to stretch out the top of your thigh as it allows you to simultaneously extend the hip joint and flex the knee allowing the rectoris femoris (RF) muscle to fully lengthen.  Start lying face down with your knees 3 or 4 inches apart.  Bend your right knee and grab your foot as it moves towards your buttocks.  Alternatively you can use a strap to hook around your foot.  Press your pubic bone toward the floor eliminating any gap between your hip and the the floor.  Gently pull your heel down towards the outer edge of your buttock.  Hold this for between 1 and 2 minutes.  Don’t force the stretch.  Focus on your breath.  As you breath in you create more space; as you exhale you can move into that space.

Balance is key here: remember to stretch your hamstrings also. A simple stretch can be a forward fold while holding opposite elbows.  Make sure not to hyper-extend your knees while doing this and focus on trying to relax into the pose.

Relaxing your short, tight quadriceps may take you some time.  Be patient, go easy, and most importantly remember to breathe!

To your health.

The following sources were used to write this article: Hero’s Journey from Yoga Journal and Hatha Yoga Illustrated.

Disclaimer:  All articles written on Microyogi are opinions and not meant to serve as any kind of instruction for how to move your body.  I am merely writing to serve as a means of trying to find my own answers.  I am not a certified trainer or medical expert.

tight quadriceps? 3 simple exercises that may help.

The more yoga I practice, the more “issues” I seem to find with my body. I have particularly tight quadriceps. So I needed to find some easy poses to help relax those guys. Here’s what I found out. Bare in mind I look for poses that feel easy and good on my body. So if you’re a beginner – great! If you want to feel good – great!

First, how do you know if your quadriceps are tight?  Try sitting in Hero’s Pose (Virasana),

Hero Pose
Hero Pose

or try to do a full Tree Pose (Vrksasana) where you pull your foot up to  groin level.

Tree Pose
Tree Pose

If you have tight quadriceps, you will have a lot of pain in Hero’s Pose across the top of the thighs and also through your knees.  That was one of my first clues.  Also, if your quadriceps are tight, you will not be able to put your foot at groin level in Tree Pose.  I can’t get my foot much above knee level and I always wondered why.  Happy accident that I discovered this was also because of my tight quads as I researched this topic over the last couple of days.

So what do you do?  I read a lot about yoga poses that I know are hard for me.  I did not want those.  I wanted easier; to start more slowly and ease out the tension.  I kept searching.  Here are the three things I found which I think will work for me.  (We will see).

  1. Work on my posture!  Bad posture will mess your body up!  I tend to stand sitting back in my hips.  I also have hyper-extended knees.  These 2 situations put a lot of strain on the quadriceps.  Standing correctly by stacking your bones and not letting your knees sit back if they are hyper-extended will immediately take the strain of that muscle.  Of course this requires a lot of awareness of your body every time you move.
  2. I found a great exercise online called a block lunge.  You will need at least one yoga block.  Perhaps 2 additional ones if your hands don’t reach the floor yet.  Basically you get into a lunge position but place a block under the thigh just above the knee.  Gently put weight onto this area.  This is much like using a foam roller.  As you gently “mush” the quad it will eventually stretch.  Hold this for as long or short as it feels good.  Put as much weight onto the block that feels good.  For more information on block lunges and a helpful video visit breakingmuscle.com .  I was really surprised about this one.  If you are not sure about the block perhaps foam rolling might help you out.  Just that yogis tend to have more access to blocks!
  3. Hero’s Pose with block and strap.  So full Hero’s Pose requires that you sit kneeling with your knees together and your sits bones on the ground between your feet.  That is pretty much impossible for me right now.  But it is possible to sit on a yoga block at the middle setting.  Another help is using a yoga strap around my knees to keep them together until my muscles stretch out.  This pose is now possible; and comfortable. You can find more information about Hero’s Pose at Yoga Journal’s website.  Yoga Journal has tons of great information.  Check ’em out!

Well, there you have it.  A couple of simple exercises you can do to try and loosen up those quads.  Go easy; be patient.

To your health.

Disclaimer:  All articles written on Microyogi are opinions and not meant to serve as any kind of instruction for how to move your body.  I am merely writing to serve as a means of trying to find my own answers.  I am not a certified trainer or medical expert.