I encourage my students to practise yoga at home; a mindful, daily practice, even if short, allows them to progress more quickly in the weekly class. Sometimes, when I know my student is very busy, or when I know they would enjoy this particular stretch, I tell them to do the stretches below – and the kitchen is a good place to do this because of the height of kitchen counters. If the kitchen counters are too high, a chair works very well too.
The positions are very effective if you want to stretch hamstrings, inner thigh muscles and gluts. I often see runners in the park doing them, with one foot on a bench or fence. However, the alignment of the hips is important to really benefit from these stretches. If you run and do these stretches after your exercise, make sure to read about the proper alignment below.
In order not to fall, especially if you know that balance is not easy for you at the moment, please have a chair or a wall near so that you can hold on while you stand on one leg.
Place your foot on the kitchen counter, standing the right distance away from the counter for the standing leg to be straight under the hips. Square the hips: align them so that both hipbones are facing forward and are on equal height. If your right leg is up, your right hip may tend to be higher. If this is the case, and it is impossible to lower the right hip down, the variation on the chair will be more beneficial to start with. Breathe and stay in this position for about a minute if you can, but come out if the stretch feels uncomfortable.
2. Inner thigh muscles
With the right leg on the raise, turn 90 degrees on your left heel. Feel how standing sideways like this stretches the inner thigh muscles. Keep your back long, the right hip down as much as possible and breathe in the stretch.
Turn back to face the kitchen cabinet. Keep the hips forward but turn the body from the waist up towards the right leg. Again, keep the right hip level with the left as much as possible, and feel the delicious stretch in the gluts!
Repeat the three positions for the other leg.
Can a 10-minute leg stretch in the kitchen be called yoga? Well, maybe not. One could also ask if a one-hour yoga class, performed with an agitated mind and a determination to outdo the person on the right, is really yoga…
Yoga is authentic when the mind is focused on the sensations in the body and the breath. So in that kitchen, forget everything around you and centre your attention on how the stretch feels, on making the stretch beneficial rather than pushy, on breathing mindfully. And I bet that you feel calmer and happier even after 10 minutes. Let me know in the comments below…