I’m a big fan of all-in-one poses: they tend to address the whole body and their complexity tends to keep the mind centered.
I’m also a fan of gentle inversions and of modifications that make poses more accessible for everybody.
Enter the Quad Stretch Fulcrum.
Do an inversion, tone your abs, and stretch your hips, quads and lumbar spine… all with The Quad Stretch Fulcrum. More bang for your yoga buck!
You need a yoga block for this. You could use something with similar dimensions as a yoga block, but it should have an equivalent level of firmness and yielding as a standard firm-foam yoga block.
1. Take the block, lie on your back, lift your hip and slide the block (turned to the tallest height) under your hip so you can get to this position: legs extended straight up, block supporting your hip bone (specifically the hip bone, not your lumbar spine — that won’t feel good for your back). Play around with the position of the block until you’re in a virtually effortless inversion: legs aligned on top of the block; hip bone comfortable and well supported; the sense that you’re relaxed enough and the position is so effortless that you could almost fall asleep in it. (But really, don’t fall asleep. In this on in any other position, except horizontal and in bed.)
Ask yourself if you really are relaxed in the position or struggling to keep it up. If the latter, chances are that by lowering your legs, readjusting the block, and raising the legs again, you’ll be able to find the sweet spot that lets you balance free of discomfort and virtually free of effort.
2. Bend both knees slightly and begin to cross your left leg on top of your right leg. The closer to your hips that your left thigh crosses on top of your right thigh, the easier it is to get into the next stage of the position.
3. Wrap your left ankle around your right ankle as pictured. This leg position is similar to Eagle Pose, Garudasana. Perhaps this is doable, perhaps not. If there’s too much bulk in your thighs (from working out a lot, I’m sure…) then it might not work to wrap the foot, in which case just leave your feet as close together as they can go, or try re-crossing your legs in step 2.
4. Still holding onto the block, gently press your feet toward the floor. Now you should feel the promised stretch to your quads and hip joints; your abdominals will automatically engage in a quest to balance upper and lower body (the fulcrum here is where your hip bone is resting on the block); and some weight will come off your shoulders. Lower your feet to wherever they can go without actually resting your feet to the floor.
Stay for 5 slow breaths… and then repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Inversion, hip joint stretch, slight stretch to the lumbar spine, quadriceps stretch, gentle toning of the abdominals… like I said, plenty of bang for your yoga buck (or er, quid, looney, or whatever slang word there’s for your local currency.)
Avoid if: While generally doable by most people, there are many potential problem spots for this position. First, be sure your hip bone, not any low-back vertebrae, is resting on the block in step 1. If your lumbar spine hurts at any point in these steps or if your shoulders, hips or ankles hurt, adjust the pose so you don’t go quite as deeply into it (i.e., use the block on its side instead of tallest height, or don’t cross thigh atop thigh quite so much or don’t wrap the feet around each other). If none of these modifications eliminate the pain, then skip the pose altogether.
Final thoughts: I haven’t tried this, but I suppose the next level of this pose would be to bring the legs down lower and raise your back and your head off the floor till you’re just magically balancing on the block. This would either be called “The Balanced Scale” Pose… or the “I Need An Ambulance Right Now” Pose, depending on how it turns out for you…