Some friends called me directly on the brute yogi hotline with some very specific questions about my first ever video on releasing the hips to help soothe back pain. After I finally went live with this website (and almost threw up several times in the process) and (with anxiety that I thought would swallow me up) posted my first blog post, they scoured my site like any beloved friends would, to peek at what little information I’ve put out there so far, and found the video. They both started doing the simple mobility movements right away with high hopes of relieving their back pain and they were sold! They even wrote the sequence on their white board in their kitchen!
What really made me struck me was how they improvised props with what they had around the house – they had one yoga block, the tie for a robe, and couch cushions. I was so proud of them! They wouldn’t let anything stop them from moving in a new way to feel better!
Their excitement was contagious! It literally makes my day to know that I’ve helped someone, especially when they get so pumped about the idea of being empowered to take care of themselves! Their one burning question though was about the “killer penguin” (my yoga buddy, Amber , gets the credit for this pet name.)
In the interest of full disclosure, this is not technically a yogasana – it is a mobility exercise and it goes by many names – the frog, the penguin, the baby maker, groin sprawl, or just simply a groin stretch. My friends decided to call it the sex pose (LOL?!) Here is a picture of another lovely friend and fellow yoga teacher, Gayle, demonstrating the killer penguin for us.
Let me take a moment to describe *why* this can be such an effective hip opener for back pain relief. The adductor muscles on the inner thighs play a major role in the position and the stability of your pelvis. If there is extra tension and gripping in the groin muscles, the pelvis can tilt too far forward and put unhealthy strain on the lumbar spine, especially if you are lacking in core stability.
**Be sure you have some padding under your knees before you get going on this groin opener**
~ Start on your hands and knees.
~ Turn the feet out 90 degrees and flex them to protect the inner knee.
~ Gradually spread your knees apart keeping the knees and thighs line with the pelvis. In this first variation, the feet are apart and the ankles are in line with the knees – so that there is a 90 degree angle behind the knee.
~ While sliding your hips back to line up with the knees, keep the spine long (this isn’t Penthouse, asses down people) by either propping under the torso with blocks, pillows, a bolster, blankets, or just simply hold yourself up on your forearms.
~Now, WAIT…hold…pause…be still…be like a killer ninja penguin…breathe and await the opening…
Moving dynamically here can also be effective. In Yoga for Athletes, we like to laugh at ourselves as we awkwardly “saw the groin open” or “hump the penguin.” Basically, just carefully shift your body back and forth to change the angle and depth of the stretch in your hip socket and in the groin. As you do this, and your adductor muscles loosen up, be sure to spread your knees wider…and wider…and wider…
Now, Tina and Lisa were wondering more specifically if there were other ways to get the same release in the adductors without so much weight on the inner knees. There sure are!
Just simply bring the feet towards each other – then it is technically more of a yogasana (adho mukha baddha konasana) and in the movement and exercise world, this is usually called, “frog.”
These versions of this groin opener aren’t quite as effective at getting to the inner groin and adductors. There is more torque placed on the femurs in the hip socket when there is a right angle at the pelvis and knee (like in the killer penguin) which creates more lengthening and stretch in the tendon attachments around the inner bowl of the pelvis. And, as a bonus, gives the femur a rotation that it rarely gets deep in the hip socket and at its gluteal attachments. But these will do if they don’t “kill” your knees as much!
Here are some versions that create that more effective torque that penguin gives (for some reason, I love that word, “torque!)
In conclusion…not sure how to end this whirlwind of hip opening ideas being tossed your way…
There is always a way – to make changes – to ease discomfort – to open the hips. Excuses cannot be excused. A few years ago, I had a rare opportunity to work with nationally recognized yoga teacher, author, public speaker, and paraplegic (yes, a paraplegic yoga teacher!) Matthew Sanford who said, “You cannot overcome your life.” I imagine that what he meant is that there are circumstances of our lives and our physical makeup that we cannot ever change, but we have the creative will, the fortitude, and the CHOICE to work with what we were given. He cannot “overcome” his disability and he doesn’t make excuses – he finds a way to work with his physical karma, he has the courage to go for what he knows is possible for him and his physical vehicle.
So, go forth and take care of your vehicle – post any questions below and epiphanies below!