Dynamic movement has been shown through a multitude of various research studies to be the best form of activity for awakening, strengthening, and elongating the myofascial complex of tissues. The Yoga Tune Up® pose Half Happy Baby is a great mini vinyasa flow exercise to dynamically address the piriformis as well as the hip joint complex in its entirety from every conceivable angle. The piriformis is activated in happy baby position as the foot/ankle is stacked vertically over the knee joint. It is then elongated as the lower extremity crosses over midline to the opposite side. This series can be used as a movement preparation activity for sports and/or a post sports activity cool down stretch when a static hold is placed at the end range of each direction of motion.
Dr. Dawn is an expert in the field of physical therapy and movement science. She has worked in a variety of settings affording her insights and perspectives along the continuum of body care. Dr. Dawn's illustrious career includes a long list of celebrity clients, athletes, and others who insist on working with the best to achieve their optimal physical functioning.
Yoga Tune Up® embodies Dr. Dawn's philosophy of precise movement with a keen focus on musculo-skeletal alignment. Low volume and high quality are the cornerstones of her individualized small group Yoga Tune Up® sessions. Every person leaves each session with the self-care knowledge to continue their health and wellness journey.
I’m loving this pose so much – my piriformis is happier than ever!
I learnt a stretch pose for piriformis before, i thought that was so good. After meeting half happy baby, the dynamic release works better on me than the static one. Also, the whole hip feels released with the pose, not just piriformis or whatever muscle i thought i stretched. Thanks!!
This looks like a great addition to my new quick morning mat time. Love it, thank you!
Love this exercice, kids wiil love it. Great way to introduce YTU in a vinyasa class.
Piriformis is definitely being stimulated at its end ranges quite a bit in this hip flow. I quite like this move! This can have huge implications in the strength and conditioning world, as obviously good hip mobility is needed to allow for good squat and deadlifting technique. If the hips are too locked up, the pelvis and lower back pay the price!
I am very excited about this pose since being introduced to it this morning in my first Yoga Tune Up class. I have had considerable hip and leg issues on my left side since my corrective surgery to the right knee last year. I found that the dynamic and static movements of the minivini to be helpful in removing the stiffness and increasing the mobility in the hips even though I was slow and hesitant during the instruction. Reading your blog has convinced me that this could make all the difference in the world to my recovery and I look forward to adding it to my daily program.
My hips are definitely much happier with this posture. I am going to show my sons who play hockey this move. I am also going to teach this pose to any female clients wanting to start a family soon. It would be a great way to create a healthy SI joint before they become pregnant.
Half Happy Baby Minivini in Level 1 TT manual includes extra movement in middle—playing foreleg like a violin and pigeon pose. I much prefer this simpler version at this point in time—slowly increasing ROM with each repetition side to side feels like a very nice warm up. It’s good to have a dynamic version of this hip opening exercise in one’s tool kit!
Thanks for the great article Dawn , I love this minivini for creating more ease in the hip socket I will definetly be using this move in my classes.
WOW! What a great exercise! My hips feel fantastic after doing this vinyasa – thanks for sharing!
I also love this dynamic exploratory pose. It was a real standout for me in the YTU level 1 training due to its active and fluid nature, and the coordination of keeping the opposite leg loose and floppy. Often times those of us highly trained in movement/fitness/dance lose the ability to release certain body parts for movement’s sake, and this becomes a “blind spot” all its own.
I just had my first training day YTU today and this movement is a real discovery for me! I had already experienced during a regular class, but not with as much detail and focus on the muscles. From me, opening the hips has always been problematic. I do running, increasing the stress on the joint and the muscles around. I think the collaborative work of massage by balls and the Half Happy Baby Minivini of the movement will greatly help to improve mobility in my hips.
I would like to know what you attribute a pinching type of pain in the groin during this movement? Is this normal?
Thank you a lot !
This is a great warm-up sequence before getting into any deeper static stretching of the piriformis. This way the hips and all the surrounding muscles are completed warm through dynamic stretching and have blood increased blood flow.
Thanks for the reminder that the piriformis is both stretched and strengthened in this minivini. It’s always great to have lots of movements in your toolbox for targeting this and the other deep lateral rotators!
Interesting…I tend to forget that the piriformis is affected by poses other than pigeon 😉 I’ve got lots of stuff going on in my hips in general and this sequence feels goood!
I have an old injury effecting one of the hip adductors where there is now so much scare tissue. This injury has really put alot of stress on the deeper external rotator muscles and as a result I have been living with tightness and inflamation in the piriformis. Since I have added Half Happy Baby mini vini into my daily routine along with ball rolling along my SI joints, I have noticed so much relief on the left piriformis!
Happy Baby is one of my favorite asanas. I love this variation of 1/2 happy baby and when it is incorporated into a mini vini, I feel as if I can get even deeper into the hip joint and all of the surrounding muscle tissue. I also love to depress the ilia of the hip that is performing the mini vini when I bring that leg across the body to the opposite side, such a nice release of tension!
This was an intense hip opener that we used during our first day of the Level One YTU training and I was shocked and happy surprised to see how effective it was for stretching my entire hip and pelvis, and relieved my lower back pain. I’m now making this part of my daily YTU personal practice.
I love this because I noticed such a difference in my own hips piriformus muscle after doing the happy baby mini vine’s, and I especially didn’t love this movement but once my SI joints stabilized I have felt much more in that area, stable and out of pain
I love that this is a dynamic sequence through the transverse plane, and that it links a few of my favourite poses: half happy baby, leg stretch #2, urdvha kapotasana, leg stretch #3.
This was the first minivini we did in training and it was a real Fireworks moment for me inside my head as I felt the dynamic movement open up new awareness and range of motion in my hips and low back.
This is a great flow that would incorporate into a vinyasa class nicely! The performs seems to be a muscle that is unknown to a lot of students. Using a dynamic flow like this that accesses all the muscles/tissues in the hip is a good way to education students about the anatomy of their hip without going “full nerd” (thanks for the quote Sara!).
I appreciate your details of the muscles involved in SI joint issues. I am very interested in this as I have several students that have sloppy SI joints. I do get concerned about Half happy baby if the student can not keep their ischial tuberosities and pelvic bones approximating level. Even half happy baby mini vinis make me a bit nervous with these students and Leg stretch 1, 2, 3, on brick. I will be exploring the stabilizing closed chained versions of leg stretch 1, 2, and 3 with approximation to get the proprioception flowing in these students. If you have other ideas, I am always interested.
Hi Dawn, Thanks for your post and sharing this mini-vini with the masses. I love this dynamic movement for waking up the tissues all around the hip in a way that static versions like figure-4 stretch just don’t seem to do. This mini-vini has definitely become one of my favorites.
this is an excellent answer to a more fun and I think more successful way for most of us to use happy baby. My hips are much happier playing one at a time – it seems with half happy baby the hips are not in a struggle of competition to find our while one is more flexible.
Hi Dawn. Thanks for the blog and for all the discussion on this topic. I have been sufferring from piriformis issues, SI, shoulder, etc and had been dealing with that through massage therapy, yoga and rolfing, but realize that the source of the issues is likely do to extensive abdominal surgery from about 10 years ago. So, I am now about to order the Coregeous DVD and buy the belly ball to face what I thought was “behind me”. Funny, but the isues I am having “behind me” are actually right “in front of me”.
I am just seeing your replies now; thank you so much for your responses!
Dawn, I am sorry that I didn’t realize that you wrote the post when I commented before. When you suggest a “full assessment,” are you talking about a particular test (some people have suggested to me that I ask my PCP for an MRI) or a hands-on assessment by a health care provider? If the latter, what type of practitioner would provide the type of assessment that you are recommending?
Jill, LOL–I agree with you that the last segment of Coregeous (I assume you mean the stability ball section) is “ridiculously difficult”! :p I also sometimes worry that the magician’s assistant work is aggravating my issues, but maybe this is what I SHOULD be doing? Which segments from Coregeous would you recommend that I focus on for now?
Finally, regarding posture: I definitely realize that this may be a contributing factor. I think my overall posture is decent, but I’ve been making a concerted effort to eliminate bad habits such as crossing my legs when I sit. I also recently got a stability ball chair to use at work (I just haven’t had a chance to use it much yet due to the holidays).
Again, thanks for the responses and the great suggestions!
I am going to second all of Dawn’s recommendations, and then add in my “1 cent”….which is ergonomics based. Your car seat, office chair and daily standing posture…be vigilant about keeping your weight equally balanced on your ischial tuberosities while sitting, or on both feet while standing…no leaning or slouching. I agree with Dawn that it is essential to strengthen the underlying architecture which may be progressively weakening as your QL thinks it has to “hold it all together.” The balls will relieve pain temporarily while you do your exercises, and overtime, tissues will rebalance themselves with the corrective work. Lastly, I have many exercises on Coregeous that are incredibly detailed to help improve spinal mechanics…you may want to review that video and only work within your “pain-free” ranges. I would skip the last sequence…as it is ridiculously difficult, and at this stage of the game would not be therapeutic.
I am not Jill but I wrote this blog post and I am a physical therapist. My suggestion is a full assessment of your myofascial-skeletal system with an emphasis on the pelvic/sacral/hip complex. There are so many structures in this region and any imbalances can create alignment issues. It is very important to address any structural mal-alignment and myofascial imbalances. And imbalances are not limited to tightness. Often tight tissues are masking and protecting weak underlying architecture. Practicing a custom designed home program for your particular imbalances is then critical to your full recovery.
I am happy to hear you are utilizing the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls! Ball rolling the quadratus lumborum, sacrum and SI joints, gluteals and piriformis, and tensor fascia lata myofascial complexes should be helpful. And remember, the ball rolling works best when done consistently over time. As far as Yoga Tune Up® specific corrective movements, I recommend sidewinder, revolved abdominal pose variation 1, and half happy baby. Other poses/movements may be helpful depending on your specific tissues. All movements should be done slow, deliberate, and with great control until you can determine how your body responds to each pose.
I hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me personally if you want further information.
Hi Jill–for the past for months, I’ve been experiencing some hip pain/discomfort on my left side of unknown cause/origin (both an x-ray and ct scan came back negative). I’ve had several episodes of low back pain in the last several years (most recently earlier this year), but this is different. The is the first time that the pain is localized to my left side only. I feel it just above my hip/pelvic bone on my left, usually more towards my back than on the side, and the pain tends to extend up the back, I think into the QL area.
First, I’d love to hear any theories you might have about what is going on! My massage therapist (also a trained yoga instructor) definitely detected tightness in the area and suggested that it might be the connective tissues–what do you think? Second, I’d like to know if there are any particular YTU poses or sequences that you would recommend. I have been doing your ball work on and off, and although it always feels good at the time, it doesn’t seem to be making a lasting difference. 🙁
Thanks in advance for any suggestions!!!