Even the most important habits are built in the tiniest of steps — a minute, 10 minutes, an hour a day. But because we are often more excited about the big, eventual change than in the daily action, we lose momentum along the way. We’ve been trying a new habit for a week and we haven’t seen any progress, so we give up! Some actions are like that — you have to persist in brushing your teeth for half a year before you get a pat on the back from your dentist — but other actions give you a sense of progress immediately.
When you take time (even just 10 minutes) to really get to the root of an issue and work creatively on it, you’ll see progress.
I’ll share an insider’s moment here at Iha Yoga: we split up into groups to see how much we can improve our peer’s asana in 10 minutes. I’m writing here because the results were extraordinary. In 10 minutes we 1) asked questions about pain and tension, 2) did exercise tests to see which muscles and joints where weaker or tighter, and 3) assigned exercises to lengthen and straighten. With just one round of exercises, we’ve gotten the results below. With daily 10 minute stretches/strengthening for your goal pose, you’ll relax comfortably into it in no time.
What surprise my group was that the double lotus pose and seated wide forward fold (upavishtha konasana) were not an issue for me, ruling out tightness in the IT band (illiotibial band, on the side of the hips, a common issue for athletes), and tightness in the inner thigh and abductors. Those are two common areas that need stretching — with a tight IT band, do more supine twists; for tight inner thighs, try more standing wide-legged forward folds to stretch and strengthen.
This leaves a final culprit for my square difficulties — tight glutes (maximum mostly, but also minimum), and perhaps flexible but weaker inner thighs. To stretch this area, try a variety of pigeon poses such as the one above. My new favorite stretch is the same as above, rotated so I can lie on the ground with my bottom leg pushing against the wall. In this lying down position, one can push against the wall and focus on bringing the lower back down, stretching the glutes fully.
As you can see, in just 10 minutes of proper focus on the right areas, I improved the alignment of this pose by 5 cm, (and thus the flexibility and strength of my body as well!) Focus and measure the right kind of progress to keep your momentum!