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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Stretch of the Month: The Prayer Triangle

October's Stretch of the Month, The Prayer Triangle, truly stretches all the muscles from your fingertips to your toes.  You'll feel the benefits of this pose in your hamstrings, back muscles, hips, chest, shoulders, and wrists.  In this stretch you will improve your posture, sense of balance, strengthen your legs, and improve digestion.  Try the arm and leg positions separately before combining the movements for the final pose.  Make sure you've had a thorough warm-up before trying this pose.

  • Start standing in a neutral position and step the right foot about 3-4 feet behind the left foot.  Slide the right heel slightly in and the right toes out so that the foot is at a 45 degree angle.  
  • Square off the hips so that they are both facing straight forward by slightly moving the left hip crease back and moving the right hip forward.  Engage the muscles of your quadriceps and hug the thighs together.  Press the outer edge of the right foot and the mound of the left big toe into the floor.
  • Bring your arms out to your sides and start to internally rotate so that your thumbs point towards the floor.  Keep rotating your arms in that direction, bend at the elbows and reach your palms together behind your back.  Your fingertips should be pointed towards your head with the pinkie finger side of your hands against your back.  This should look like a prayer position behind your back.  Use this arm position to open across the chest, without letting the front ribs splay open.
  • On an inhalation lengthen your spine and lift your chest up to the ceiling.  Exhale and crease at the hips, reaching the chest forward and the tailbone back.
  • Make sure that your hips remain even, legs strong, and feet pressing down into the floor.
  • You can stay here or fold your front body all the way over your front leg.  Stay for 5 deep breaths.  On an inhalation lengthen the chest to come all the way up to standing.  Try it on the other side.

Modifications: "What if...?"
  • " hands won't make a prayer position behind my back" Hold on to opposite elbows behind the back instead of the prayer position.
  • " back is rounding when I fold over"  Stand at an arms length distance from a wall.  Follow the steps for the leg position, but keep both palms on the wall when you crease at the hips so that you can maintain a flat back.  Or release the arms down to blocks on either side of the front foot.
  • " back heel comes off the floor"  Step the back heel on a folded up mat, or step the heel against a wall to keep it stable.
The Prayer Triangle is a very challenging stretch.  Be sure to respect where your body is at with it.  Take modifications until you can keep proper alignment in the final pose.  In any stage of the stretch you will gain all of the great benefits.  And remember to keeping breathing into your tight areas!