When my beginning senior students ask me what they should practice at home, I always prescribe Leg Stretches. Never to overwhelm a new student with more things to add to their pressured day, I keep it simple by suggesting to start with just one pose, for only one minute per side to begin with. So, two minutes of yoga each day in the beginning is doable.
Only 2 minutes a day? Why not! One pose can change your whole day. Seriously, when I ask my students to hold each leg stretch for one minute and that’s it, students are inspired to take it on. The beauty of underwhelming a new student with minimum home practice is, instead of feeling pressure and guilt for not doing enough, they will typically be inspired to do more with pleasure.
The comments that come back to me proves to me that they have done more then my suggestion and the results are ten-fold in their classroom progress. They are super excited by the day-to-day changes and can experience for themselves how consistent practice of even one pose a day really does make a difference as they quickly show the improvement of more flexibility and greater awareness.
My seniors are feeling less hip pain, leg pain, less fatigue, a renewed feeling of lightness from increased circulation, greater freedom of movement in their walking, so they are able to stand longer, walk easier and they are truly seeing the satisfying fruits of their home practice, as simple as it is.
Beginning senior students will come into a yoga class with a bucket load of past information in their minds about their body and their limitations. But there is one main limitation that reveals itself instantaneously when beginning yoga and that is the hamstrings. Students with tight hamstrings have a hard time moving forward (literally) in their practice as it is reflected in our own language as the old saying goes, if someone is ‘hamstrung’ they are stuck! So it goes in Yoga as well. I find that there is so much fear with students when experiencing the sensation (some would call pain) of the back of the legs stretching that they avoid it at all costs. Yoga Tune Up® Leg Stretch #1 is a great start.
In acupressure, the Bladder Meridian runs down the back of the body including the back of both legs. First the Bladder represents fear, and second it represents our ‘push’ in life. So, in our ambitious society, the hamstrings are very busy.
Yoga Tune Up® Leg Stretch #1 offers an efficient stretch to the back of the leg (hamstrings and calves) and when performed on a block gives a more intense stretch to the quads and psoas. These are synergists muscle groups working together that will bring a refreshing feeling of rejuvenation and energy to the entire body. Using a yoga strap will allow any student to find their range of motion without strain and eliminate that element of fear.
As students seek more practice they can add Yoga Tune Up® Leg Stretches #2 and #3. If students want to increase timings by 2 minutes for each variation, they will increase their home practice to 12 minutes.
People have busy lives, but they also want to feel the independence to incorporate the classroom experience at home. This is a way that inspires without pressure, and leads them on a path of choice, freedom and self-exploration.
Read about Yoga Tune Up® for seniors.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.
Find your nearest Yoga Tune Up® Class
I like the simplicity of starting people off on something easy like leg stretches, and great reminder about the importance of the bladder meridian.
I really enjoyed reading this and agree that the hamstrings can very much frustrate and often make students feel like they’re not getting further in there practice. I’m inspired to keep teaching the Leg Stretch #1 over and over again reminding students that they’re not looking for 100% of difference but just maybe 1% at a time. A little goes a long way.
Yes, yes, yes! I like your addressing the hamstrings and a super short home practice! Better practice 2 mins every day than 90 mins only once a week. Thank you for a nice reminder!
I like the idea of two minutes only a lot of people are busy or do not make time for stretching, this is a great way to get them into a routine of stretching their hamstrings and adding onto their time with other stretches
Great post, very informative. I think a lot of people will find this very useful. Keep up the good work!!
This really drives home the point that “less is more”.
Plus a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.
Anybody can do 2 minutes a day.
Drawn to this blog because of your work with seniors. Love the way you tell them that 2 minutes a day can make a change in their life. Everyone says Yoga is for everybody, I am a Yoga Teacher and do believe that. I just completed the level 1 YTU Training and know that yoga is not enough. Senior need to be flexible in their bodies and their mind. They also need to build strength throughout the body, increase their range of motion to keep their joints supply and their fascia hydrated. I know this because I am a Senior and love to vary my movements, this is what is keeping me strong and supple.
I have been teaching this posture in my vinyasa class but I never truly understood the properly alignment until today. Although I had previously emphasized the stability of the hips on the ground during the external rotation and abduction, I did not realize that my true rage of motion was so limited when the posture was done correctly. I have been wasting so much time in finding a simple inner thigh stretch when I could have been gifting myself and my students with all of the incredible benefits of this posture. Another aha moment!
Nice post. I like the way you positioned in at 2 minutes, keeping it simple and underwhelming. The hamstrings sensations, as you mentioned, can vary from a sensation to pain, depending on the individual. As someone begins to see results, they will see the benefits in their everyday activities and then continue this pose for longer, and then incorporate other beneficial poses.
This is one of the poses I incorporate in every Beginning yoga class sequence. Done Supine, lying on your back with a strap helps lengthen the hamstrings and bring awareness to the whole body. Empowering them to take their practice into their own hands. Change is inevitable!
This inspires me to want to teach yoga to my mom. I always think that it would be nice for her, but I never really know where to begin. But I totally get how Leg Stretch #1 would be beneficial. We performed this pose the other day in class and it felt amazing. And who can’t commit to two minutes a day? Anyone who says they can’t do yoga will most likely be able to hold this pose for two minutes, and reap the benefits.
What a great idea – the two minute yoga pose. I have don’t have a really good home practice, partly because I live in a small apartment without a dedicated space to practice. So I procrastinate about putting out my mat, getting ready, etc. The idea of throwing my mat down on the floor for two minutes is great!
This works really well. I tried it with my student in a private lesson and they were very happy to use this method. It gave enough time to release but also to relax-short holds are fantastic and underwhelming.SCORE!
What a great idea to set the limit to one pose for two minutes. I usually start out with a lot of inspiration and high ambition, but quite soon fail to keep it up when it comes to my home practise (if I don’t desperately need a stretch) – but this I could make into a daily routine, like tooth brushing, and keep as a minimum 🙂
I started out with leg stretch #2 and kept adding one a week. Now the leg stretches are in my daily repertoire. Especially since Id like to keep up with the cycling and hiking. It is so true that the bladder rules fear. We all have it in our lives on a daily basis however subtle. Bring on the leg stretches!
I truly see the value in these leg stretches and am excited to use them to help prepare my body better for triangle. Increasing the use of all of the directions of motion here does truly improve the health of all the joints in the hip/pelvis area. It’s incredible how many directions of motion are utilized in these simple stretches, especially as you externally rotate the raised leg. Abduction, external rotation, hip flexion all in one exercise, and that is just 1 of the legs (the other experiencing extension)!
Coming from a perfectionist, all or nothing personality, I am ready to surrender to this idea that less is more. I love these leg stretches and think that leg stretch #3 really scared me for a long time. After last weekend’s YTU teacher training I now know how to properly do it, I am making it my daily pose to correct some of the external rotation in my hips and weak QL. I will definately advocate to my students for this approach to yoga. Baby steps.
This is one of the poses I also recommend to all of my students that they can do at home. Since it requires little effort by you, the effort required brings on so much relief from tight hamstrings due to sitting, driving and other activities, as well as this pose is accessible to everyone by using a strap. By encouraging and empowering our students to take their practice into their own hands will deepend their body awareness as well as many other observations they may receive throughout their yoga journey. Thanks for the reminder! I will teach this pose again tonight!
Great way to go about encouraging new students. Yoga can seem intimidating to all kinds of students. Not only is a 2-minute practice good for anyone to do at home, it will also bring beginners and seniors the strength and confidence to explore more poses.
“The beauty of underwhelming a new student…” That is such a wonderful way to look at it. It’s so true. We all struggle with taking on new responsibilities and we often bite off more than we can chew. A 2-minute practice is just a bija or seed. If you plant it, it will grow. It can flourish if the student takes it on and then they will keep adding on. The important thing is to do something every day.
I completely agree that this practice could be effective. No matter what practice you are doing,and even if it is only for two minutes, if you engage your entire body, you will get something out of it!
its so true what you said about hamstrings. when i first started yoga my hamstrings were so tight i could barely touch my toes (also in part to a tight lower back). this stretch is the perfect posture to give a beginner to do at home.
I agree that 2 minutes of yoga practice a day is well worth it-and in many cases more valuable then doing a 90min class once a week or a yoga marathon every weekend! I would like to think that any activity or discipline could be approached this way whether it’s mediating, calling a loved one, or volunteering time. 2 min is doable and does not set ourselves up for failure the way we often do when we set unrealistic goals.
I love this bite size approach to beginning a home practice. This is a question i have heard many times especially in my Astanga Primary Series class. Students think that they have to memorize and practice the 90 minute sequence in order to achieve any results. Yoga Tune Up emphasizes that breaking down the classical poses into these comprehensible units will do so much more than repeating the full pose again and again without correct awareness. It has changed my whole approach.
brilliant! i’m stealing this 🙂
underwhelm students and give them one simple pose at a time 🙂
Hi Shell i am going to get my strap right now….Thank You and i Love your pictures in this article….and you!!
Thank you, Shelley! The way you talk about yoga and your suggestions are soooo motivating!
You make it sound easy! And ….the more I do what you teach me to do, the easier it becomes!
THANK YOU! Meeting you,taking your classes, having private classes with you, reading your articles
is life changing for me!
Very interesting point you make about the hamstrings being energetically related to fear and ambition. It’s certainly worth asking what we’ve been running running away from and what we’ve been running so hard to attain as we work with this juicy pose. I love that Leg Stretch # 1 gives me the chance to look at each side of my body separately and it keeps me from “cheating” by flexing at neck and low back.
So simple, yet such a powerful way to dig into the grunge in the hamstrings. I’m going to go do it right now!!!
Very wise and the perfect stretch! Thank you.
Great article Shelley – I can handle two minutes a day, and who knows I might get carried away and do five! It’s so true, consistency is what really makes a difference..Great pic of you in leg stretch by the way!
Here here!! Going so far as to suggest a time of day (before bed for example) forces the participant to set aside the time to do it. After climbing the stairs (hopefully), there muscles won’t be totally cold. Great post.
What a great suggestion! Even for those of us who are trying to establish or re-establish a home practice, but always find a reason to get out of it. Who can complain about 2 minutes taking up your time? Once you start, you will not want to stop. Starting with the hamstrings is the best, as most of us sit all day, and experience the incredible shrinking hamstrings and hipflexors. Let’s start 🙂