At the beginning of a workshop that I was holding last weekend I was showing one participant in particular a very useful stretch because she has some pretty tight thighs, which partially stems from the all of the running she does as she is training for a ½ marathon. As I was taking her through the stretch, it was obvious that others were very intrigued as well. It’s very common, especially with runners, cyclists and weightlifters to have quite a bit of tension built up in the quadriceps and iliopsoas (hip flexors) because these are prime movers in propelling you forward.
When this area of your body is tight it limits your mobility and ease of movement for everything from basic daily activities like squatting or sitting on the ground comfortably to play with your children to performing your best in competitive fitness events, and certainly restricts the depth of which you can move into certain yoga postures. I know this because I, too, suffered from tight thighs after years of playing sports and lifting weights. But after nearly 2 years of making a concentrated effort to open this area of my body and being more mindful of what I do & how I use my body, I have made significant progress (keep I mind I also went through pregnancy during that time as well).
By supplementing a regular yoga practice with this simple “Wall Stretch” before, and maybe even after you practice depending on how much tension there is in this area of your body, you will begin to notice progress toward opening these muscle groups. To perform this stretch so you get the most out of it, here’s what to do:
- Find a wall–you don’t need a ton of room, just a wall that maybe has carpet up to it for padding under you knee. If you don’t have carpet, just grab something to put under your knee to cushion it a bit (your yoga mat would work great for this).
- If you have yoga blocks, grab those because they might come in handy; otherwise you may want just something to rest your hands on and use a leverage to deepen the stretch (a chair would work).
- Kneel down on the floor and scoot one knee all the way up against the wall. Notice in the picture below how the top of my foot is flat against the wall and my knee is touching the wall.
- Try to pull your other knee/foot out from under you and place that foot on the floor. You may find this to be extremely difficult; if that is the case, do not force it, but rather lift through your chest as much as possible and create the sensation of tucking your tailbone up and under. Work with the stretch here until you can progress to placing your opposite foot on the floor.
- Once you can place your opposite foot on the floor, begin to work with moving the blocks back closer to your body and lifting your upper body so that it is more upright.
- Continue to lift through your chest and tuck your tailbone. Use the blocks to support you if needed.
- Once you are comfortably uncomfortable in a nearly vertical position, you can begin to experiment with flexing your ankle and tucking your toes against the wall. You may have to go back down to keeping both knees on the floor as in the picture above.
- Continue to use the same process of stepping your opposite foot out and walking the blocks back until you are mostly vertical. Remember to lift your chest and tuck your tailbone. Yes, I know your leg is screaming at you, but it is good.
You may get to a point in which you don’t need the blocks anymore with both your foot flat against the wall and tucked; if that is the case, place your hands on your hips.
Add the Wall Stretch before your yoga practice and after if you have extremely tight quads and hips. If you haven’t yet discovered yoga for yourself, add this stretch into your routine following your workout. Hold each side for about 30 seconds and begin to see results!