Lower Body Asana

Before you begin, please read through the directions and make sure you understand the movement. Check with your doctor before starting any new physical movements. When in doubt, ask your doctor! Remember that yoga, even these gentlest of movements, is not a substitute for medical care. Pay attention to the body and if there is any sharp pain, pulling, shakiness or jerkiness, discomfort, shortness of breath, it is best to stop immediately. You donít have to be able to do every single movement! So it is important to understand and respect individual limits. By being aware of the body and breath through each movement, we become more in tune with our bodies.

The really gentle movements are simple and go through various parts of the lower body: toes, feet, ankles, knees, thighs, and hips. Beginning with the toes, we work up to the hips. Going through each joint individually helps us determine where there is stiffness or tightness. Are you holding tension and stress in that area? A lot of vibration and jerkiness could be an indication of stress. Learning relaxation (look at the practices on breath and meditation) may be helpful. Are the muscles tight? Try to distinguish between tightness and tension. Tightness will respond to gentle stretching. We try to implement both relaxation and stretching by moving with the breath. Breath awareness can be helpful, over time, to release tension as the physical stretch relieves tightness.

Leg movements generally begin with the right leg as it will stretch or compress the right side of the lower belly. This is because the large intestine flows in an inverted U from right to left and we try to flow with it and not against it. The gentle stretching and compressing of the belly resulting from the physical movements can be helpful for improved circulation in the legs and lower abdominal area. The toning and massaging of the organs may be beneficial for the digestive and excretory systems.

All the major joints of the leg are exercised to increase flexibility, strength and balance. They can be beneficial for arthritis, multiple sclerosis, osteopenia, and Parkinsonís. Weak joints can be targeted for warm-ups through these exercises. As most can be done on a chair, it is easy to design a DIY, tailored chair yoga or office routine for seniors or office workers.

Keywords: Toes, ankle, feet, heels, knee, hip, thigh, arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsonís, osteoporosis, chair /office yoga, easy yoga, senior yoga, strengthening of hips, legs, knees, ankles, feet, soles, toes, heels, back, balance, increasing range of motion, flexibility

Base Position

Choose a base position that is right for you.

Sitting on a mat/firm bed: Sit on the mat with legs stretched out, parallel to each other, and a hip-width apart. Use any support that may be necessary for your back. The head, neck, and spine should be aligned. Place a pillow/cushion/rolled towel or blanket under the buttocks if there is any back pain. Chest bone is raised slightly. The mid-points of the thigh, knee, ankle and second toe are aligned. Use support under the knees. Place arms on thighs, or place hands directly under the shoulders with the fingers pointing front. The weight of the body is evenly distributed on the two sit bones and arms/hands giving the body a feeling of symmetry in terms of weight and shape.

Sitting on a chair: Sit upright on a firm chair. Legs should be a hip-width apart, feet flat on the floor or supported by some other surface. The mid-points of the thigh, knee, ankle and second toe are aligned, if possible. The knee joint is bent to make a 90 degree angle. Place hands on the thighs or hold on to the sides of the chair. The weight of the body should be evenly distributed on the two sit-bones. The body should symmetrical in terms of weight and shape.

Standing: Place feet a hip-width apart and parallel to each other, toes pointing straight forward and the toes of both feet should be in one line. The mid-points of the thigh, knee, ankle and second toe are aligned. Weight is evenly distributed between over both feet. Head, neck and spine are aligned. Shoulders are dropped. The chest bone is slightly elevated. Arms hang loose by the side of the body. There should be symmetry in the body in terms of weight and shape/length.

Lying down (shavasana or corpse position): Lie down on a firm surface. Use a pillow to support your head and neck, if necessary. Adjust the body so that the head, neck, and spine are aligned in one straight line. Drop shoulders into the floor and keep the neck soft. Feet should be a hip-width apart with the ankles turned out. Arms are by the side of the body but not touching the body with the hands about 8-12 inches away from the body and the palms relaxed upwards.

The number of repetitions recommended for the movements are general suggestions. You must be aware of your own body and its limitations and comfort level and make appropriate adjustments. There should be no discomfort, pain, or shortness of breath. Make sure you take the time to rest in between movements and settle the breath. All movements should be slow, smooth, fluid and done with awareness of body and breath.

Body and Breath Awareness

Please spend a few quiet moments by gently closing your eyes and drawing attention to the body. Scan the body from head to toe. Then be aware of the breath wherever it is felt in the body. Count 10 breaths with total awareness of the breath. Then open your eyes and begin the physical program.

Conclude your "session" with body and breath awareness as well.

Toe Flex

Assume a sitting position or lie down in shavasana/corpse position. Breathing in through the toes, try to feel them as you lift them up and toward the body. Feel the soles stretching and moving forward slightly. Spread the toes out as if they are petals of a blooming flower. Exhaling, clench the toes as if squeezing the air, or tension, out as the flower closes. The soles draw in as the top of the foot stretches gently. Repeat the movement, with awareness of the toes and the breath, 5 times.

Ankle Flex

Assume a sitting position or lie down in shavasana/corpse position. Breathing in through the ankle, try to feel the ankle while moving the whole foot in toward the body, toes pointing up. Feel the stretch in the sole, ankle, calf and the back of the knee. Exhaling, bend the foot down toward the floor, pointing the toes downward. Feel the stretch in the top of the foot, ankle, shin and knee. Repeat the movement 5 times.

Circular Ankle Rotation

Assume a sitting position or shavasana. Anchor the heels firmly in the floor. Feet are pointing up. Now start drawing as large a circle as you can with your toes by rotating the feet from the ankles. Draw 5 clockwise and 5 anti-clockwise circles. If comfortable, breathe in when the feet make the top half of the circle and breathe out when they make the bottom half of the circle.

Tip-Toe Walk

Hold on to the back of a firm chair that will not slip or slide. Assume the base standing position with the hands holding on to support. Breathing in from the toes, lift up the heels of your feet and feel the whole body rising up with the breath so that you are standing on your toes. Lift the pelvis floor and chest up a little. Breathing out, feel the body lowering down and relaxing. The heels come back down to the floor and the breath leaves the body through the toes. Repeat 5 times.

If comfortable, hold the position of standing on the toes for as long as comfortable while breathing normally. This can help strengthen the ankle, feet, toes, and knees while stretching the soles of the feet. It can also be helpful in improving balance.

If comfortable and if balance is fine, walk forward on tip toes. Then walk backward on your tip toes.

Rest and allow the breath to settle.

Heel Walk

Hold on to the back of a firm chair that will not slip or slide. Assume the base position with the hands holding on to support. Breathing in from the heels, lift the toes and the foot up while anchoring the heels in to the floor. Feel the body lifting upwards by slightly and gently drawing up the pelvis floor and chest. Breathing out, lower the feet and toes to the floor while relaxing the body. Repeat 5 times.

Hold on to the back of a firm chair that will not slip or slide. Assume the base position with the hands holding on to support. Breathing in from the heels, lift the toes and the foot up while anchoring the heels in to the floor. Feel the body lifting upwards by slightly and gently drawing up the pelvis floor and chest. Breathing out, lower the feet and toes to the floor while relaxing the body. Repeat 5 times.

If comfortable and balance is fine, walk forward on the heels. Then walk backward on the heels.

CAUTION: Use your judgment.

Feet Rock

Holding on to the back of a firm chair that will not slip or slide, assume the standing position. Gently lift the heels up as the body is supported on the toes. Then lower the heels and lift the toes. Feel the gentle rocking motion in the feet. Continue alternately lifting heel, toe, heel, toe, for 10 repetitions. The movement helps strengthen the body and improve balance.

Rest and allow the breath to settle.

CAUTION: Please use your judgment on the ability to do this movement.

Advanced Balance on Feet

Assume the base standing position. If necessary, hold on to the back of a firm chair. Take a step forward with your right foot. Now inhaling, raise yourself on both sets of toes. Exhaling, slightly bend the knees and move the body in a squat as if lowering the body to sit in a chair, keeping the heels off the floor. Inhaling, raise the body up coming out of the squat. Keep slightly bent knees while still keeping the heels off the floor. Repeat the movement 5 times. Relax both legs. Then repeat the movement with the left leg.

Rest.

CAUTION: Please use your judgment on the ability to do this movement.

Knee Flex
Circular Knee Rotation

Sitting in either of the two base positions, bring hands under the right leg, just above the knee joint. Interlace fingers. Keep the leg soft as you lift it off the floor, knee bent. Move the lower leg from the knee joint as you make as large a circle as you can with your foot. Feel the knee joint moving. Move 5 times clockwise and 5 times anti-clockwise. Repeat with the left leg.

Thigh Joint Flex / Leg Lift

Sit on a chair or lie in shavasana. Stretch the right leg out by extending it as much as you can with comfort. Keeping the leg extended, inhale gently and feel the breath lifting the leg up. Exhaling, feel the leg coming back down with the breath. If your back arches painfully in shavasana, please keep the left leg bent at the knee, close to the sit bones, with the foot flat on the floor and aligned with the hip. Repeat 5 times. Then switch legs and repeat with the left leg.

Rest till the breath settles.

Circular Thigh Joint Rotation

Sitting in either of the two base sitting positions, bring hands under the right leg, just above the knee joint. You can also be lying down, keeping the left leg bent with the foot flat on the floor to protect the lower back while the right leg is rotating from the thigh. Interlace fingers. Keep the right leg and hip soft as you lift the leg off the floor with the knee slightly bent. Move the whole leg from the thigh joint as you make as large a circle as you can with your right foot. Feel the thigh joint moving. Make 5 clockwise and 5 anti-clockwise circles. Repeat with the left leg.

This movement can also be done while standing.

Vertical Scissors

Gentle Version: Assume the base chair position or shavasana. Bend legs at the knees, lift them up, and then stretch the legs out. Keep soft knees. The legs are about a 90 degree angle to the body. Lift the right leg further in toward the body while lowering the left leg away toward the floor. You will be making a V with the legs. Then switch. Raise the left leg toward the body and lower the right toward the floor. Make a narrow, skinny V to begin with and then as the stomach and back get stronger, you can make a wider V. Alternate the legs up and down 5 times, or whatever is comfortable for you. If you are sitting on a chair, sit on the edge. It may be helpful to hold on to the sides of the chair.TIP: If you are lying down, place your hands under the buttocks with the palms down against the floor. This will help anchor the pelvis and ease any tension in the back due to the movement. In either case, do not tense the face, back and neck. There should be no pain in the lower back or small of the back. If there is any discomfort, stop.

Moderate Version: Assume the base sitting position on the mat/floor. Move the hands about a foot behind you and lean back as you keep the back straight and lifted, but not tense. Move the legs up and down alternately as described above.

Rest.

Horizontal Scissors

Gentle Version: Assume the chair position or shavasana. Bend the legs at the knees with the feet flat on the floor. Inhaling, feel the lift of the breath as the legs rise up, and then stretch gently. Separate them to form a V. Exhaling, bring the legs in and cross them above the body (if lying down), or in front of the body (if in chair) with the right leg above the left leg. Inhaling, separate the legs into a V. Exhaling, bring them in to cross over with the left above the right this time.TIP: If you are sitting on a chair, it may be helpful to hold on to the sides of the chair. If you are lying down, place the hands under the buttocks with the palms down against the floor. Do not tense the back and neck. Repeat 3 more times, or whatever is comfortable. Keep knees soft and bent to ease tension on the back. There should be no pain or discomfort in the lower back or small of the back. If there is discomfort, stop.

Moderate Version: Assume the base sitting position. Move the hands about a foot behind you with the fingers pointing toward the body. Lean back as you keep the back upright and lifted, but not tense. Lift the legs off the floor with the inhaled breath as you separate them in a V. Exhaling cross them in an X with the right leg above the left. Inhaling, separate them, in V. Exhaling, cross them with the left leg above the right this time. Repeat for a total of 5 repetitions, or whatever is comfortable for you.

Rest.

Sideways Single Leg Scissors

Lie on the left side with your left arm stretched up above the head, or use the left arm to prop your head up. Inhaling, lift the whole right leg up moving from the hip. Keep the leg aligned with the hip and see if you can grab hold of the right toe, ankle, or shin with your right hand. Then let go. With the exhaled breath, lower the leg so that it is just above the floor. Repeat 5 times. Then switch sides and repeat with the left leg.

Leg Cycle

Begin with the lying down base position. Bend the left leg from the knee and place the left foot on the floor a few inches away from the hip. Make sure the hip, thigh, knee and ankle are aligned. With the inhaled breath, stretch and lift the right leg. With the exhaled breath, bend the right leg as you draw the right knee in toward the chest. Inhaling, stretch the right leg out and repeat the movement 5 times. Then repeat in the reverse direction. Switch legs and do the exercise with the left leg.

Rest.

Knee-To-Chest

Begin with the lying down base position. Bend the left leg from the knee and place the left foot on the floor a few inches away from the hip. Make sure the hip, thigh, knee and ankle are aligned. With the inhaled breath, stretch and lift the right leg. With the exhaled breath, bend the right leg as you draw the right knee in toward the chest. Bring both hands just below the knee. Interlace the finger and hold the knee comfortably drawn toward the body. Hold for just as long as it is comfortable while breathing normally. Lower the right foot to the floor. With the inhaled breath, stretch and then lift the left leg. Repeat the movement with the left leg.

End the practice with awareness of the whole body. Scan the body mentally from head to toe, slowly. Be aware of the natural spontaneous breath.