Hanu-My Ass-ana >:T

All flexibility is not created equal. I am told by others that I am a vata body type and “naturally flexible.” Well, I don’t feel flexible. I can get into some tough poses that require flexibility, but not without a lot of warm up and not without (what I recently discovered was) some cheating. Some asanas feel altogether impossible to do, which is all the more frustrating for someone “flexible” like me. My current hurdle is the dreaded hanumanasana. For a while I felt vexed, not for being unable to get into the pose, but for not understanding why. In my mind if you have open hips and can forward fold and bend, it should be no problem. My forward folds and bends are flat and my hips are open, but for the life of me my crotch will forever hover mid-air. Fearful this to be a terrible metaphor for life, I decided to analyze and breakdown where I have tightness and where I have overused (and misused) the more flexible parts of me.

Muscles that are lengthening in hanumanasana and asanas that stretch them:

Front leg

  • Hamstrings: supta hasta padangusthasana/krounchasana
  • Gluteus maximus: uttanasana
  • Gluteus medius: padmasana
  • Adductor longus: upavistha konasana
  • Piriformis: marichyasana c
  • Gastrocnemius: adho mukha svanasana/paschimottanasana
  • Plantaris: modified uttanasana
  • Popliteus: modified purvottanasana

Rear leg

  • Iliopsoas: anjaneyasana
  • Tensor fascia lata: padmasana
  • Rectus femoris: virasana
  • Pectineus: baddha konasana
  • Sartorius: eka pada rajakapotasana
  • Adductors: upavistha konasana

Core

  • External obliques: utthita trikonasana
  • Internal obliques: parivrtta trikonasana

Muscles contracting and asanas that strengthen them:

Core

  • Erector spinae: purvottanasana
  • Quadratus lumborum: urdhva dhanurasana

The most important part of going through these diagnostic tests was making sure my alignment was spot on and I was focusing on the muscle in question as opposed to getting into the asana and compensating the stretch in other body parts. Through this extensive breakdown I found tightness in my hamstrings, gastrocnemius, adductors, and muscles behind the knee (plantaris/popliteus.) Upon further investigation, I also discovered a few roots to some of the tightness and imbalances in my lower body: flat-footedness, bunions, and plantar fasciitis. This analysis of hanumanasana forced me to systematically dissect the pose, analyze functional anatomy, and discover a few things about myself. On whole the practice of yoga asana is just this, understanding your body better and developing control and balance.

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