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Your Body on Yoga Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 7

Lower Leg Awareness

30 min - Practice


Kristin shares a series of postures to help find a better balance of the muscles of the lower leg. You will feel integrated and aware.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster, Block (2)

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I'd love to share with you a practice on how to find a better balance of the muscles of the lower leg. So if you are a teacher, these postures can fit seamlessly into your teaching practice. Or just if you have legs and are human and want to develop a sweeter balance, these might be great postures to integrate into your own home practice. So let's just start together by closing the eyes and take a moment to remember why we're doing this, not just for better leg balance, but to find a joy and ease in moving, be supported and free. Take a breath that celebrates that and take a more indulgent breath in and out.

And as you continue to breathe deeply, find in some way the inhale can lengthen and widen and open you and the exhale brings the lower belly about three finger width below the navel in towards the lower spine and up towards your own heart. Take a few more deep breaths at your leisure and bow the chin towards the chest, staying aware of that deeper movement of breath as your eyes flutter open, then let's meet down on our bellies. We'll bring ourselves onto our abdomen, hands framing the sides of your chest, legs extended back as if your toes could grow a couple inches longer. Bring in the heart and the head kind of buoy up. And on the exhale, you lower the heart and nose to the floor.

Just do that two more times, inhale, breathing influences the lift, the openness, the expansiveness. Just be careful that you don't throw the head back, but you keep your chin slightly in. Exhale as your navel lifts up, you lower down one more time just to feel muscles around the spine beginning to wake up and get on board. Now this next time you're going to inhale, lift, head, chest and right leg away from the mat. Exhale, keeping the leg lifted, bend the knee with the heel moving in towards the rear, trying to keep the knee lifted if at all possible.

Inhale, restreaten your right leg, float a little bit longer and higher up if possible. Exhale, lower everything to the floor. Left side of that, inhale, lifting, head, chest, left leg. Exhale, bending your left knee with a little resistance from the hamstrings. Inhale, reaching back through your left leg, maybe you lift it a little higher from where the tush and thigh meet, exhale, lower down.

Do it one more time each side, inhale, head, chest, right leg, lift. Try not to roll the hips asymmetrical, keep the right knee facing the floor. Exhale, bend, inhale, restreaten, lift a little bit higher still. Exhale, lower. Left side, inhale, lift, head, chest, left leg.

Exhale, bending. Inhale, straighten. Exhale, lower. And for fun, inhale, lift, head, chest, both legs. Exhale, bend.

Inhale, straighten. Doesn't look like much. Continue on. Exhale, bend. But I can already feel my backs of the legs starting to wake up.

Inhale. I even get the little quivers of joy. Exhale, lower. And to pause for a moment, you can take your arms under your forehead like for a little pillow. You can let your heels flop open.

Again, remember your intention of the practice. Slide the hands back to frame the sides of your chest. Draw your legs together to touch. So it's the inner thigh, inner knee, inner ankle, inner foot. Give one big leg like a mermaid.

Hands by the sides of your chest. Inhale, let's lift everything up. And now take your legs open into a V-shape, wide as your mat or a little wider. Exhale, squeeze your inner legs together to touch. Three more times, inhale, opening the legs into a V-shape, exhale, squeeze your legs together.

So finding the muscles of the outer hip and inner thigh, starting to jump on board. Exhale, squeeze. Again, inhale. Exhale, squeeze. Inhale, lift everything up a little higher.

Exhale, lower everything down to the mat. Keep your hands framing the sides of your chest. Engage your lower belly up, almost like there's a cold penny under your belly, lifting your belly up. Press the floor away, come up hands and knees, and then just take a moment, sit back on your heels into child's pose. Roll up this through the spine.

Let's look for a block. If you have one close by, you can always do it without a block. And we'll come up to stand at the front of the mat. So let's take the block in between your thighs. So you might have to widen your legs a little bit to accommodate, and then squish the block as if you're trying to kind of make it more narrow.

Feet will still stay parallel, and this will just give you a little bit of like a kinesthetic awareness of those inner thighs beginning to charge up. We'll take Uttanasana. So for the first one, you can take your hands on your tush, where your tush and thighs meet. Inhale where you are. Exhale, put a tiny bend in the knees.

Feel the block move towards the back of the room, so you're rolling the inner thighs back slightly. Keep your spine long and fold all the way down. Exhales may go to the back, so the knees, calves, ankles, who knows? Inhale through your lung spine, coming all the way back up. Again, keep the chin in so the back body stays as long as it can.

Exhale, you're going to fold for it again. You're going to put enough of a bend in the knees that you can keep your spine long. Inhale, lengthen to come up. Now if you'd like a little bit harder, inhale, reach the arms up to the ceiling. Same movement, exhale, hinge from the hips, a little more front-loaded, so now the hamstrings, the calves, even parts of the seat will have to engage.

Inhale, reach the arms forward of the head, lengthen to come up. Inhale, engage your lower belly, fold forward. One more time. If it's too much on the back, take the hands back to ride up and down the legs. Exhale, we'll lower the arms and take the block away.

We're going to meet now on our backs. Go ahead and carefully come down onto your backs and prepare your feet on the floor. We're going to walk the feet together to touch, so a little unusual perhaps for your bridge pose. We'll do the first set with the feet and knees touching here, arms down by your sides. On the inhale breath, we're going to press into the floor, lift the pelvis and reach your arms up into the floor behind your head.

Exhale, reach the spine back down to the floor, reach your arms up and down by your sides. Let's do this a few more times, inhale. And exhale, lower. This might be a newer experience, we're used to doing it with the feet hip distance. See if you can go with it, inhale.

And exhale, lower. Now walk your feet to your comfortable place, which is about hip distance apart, toes facing forward. We'll do a few more like this, so inhale, lifting, different experience, exhale, lower. I find that these variations of bridge kind of organize the glutes, so we're not over using gluteus maximus, but we're getting medius and minimus in on the asana as well. Exhale, you'll lower.

One more time, inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. Now walk your feet just about that distance apart, so wider than your hips. Three more like this, inhale, rise. Exhale, lower.

Two more, inhaling, lengthen, open, keep the belly somewhat engaged on the inhale, deepen the engagement of the belly on the exhale as you lower, inhale, lift. Exhale, lower. As you lower this next time, just start to find that you can walk your feet together and let your knees open out to the sides, supta baddha konasana. Now you're not going to stay, but on the exhale breath, you're going to slowly move your knees back together to touch. Slow, long inhale, so maybe it's a six count inhale to open the knees away from one another.

And then six count exhale to engage the belly, pelvic floor, bringing the knees slowly together to touch. Please do this a gazillion more times. Just a few more times. And it always surprises me, I'm not sure why it still surprises me, but these slow thoughtful movements that don't look too crazy from the outside can be really powerful ways to reintegrate the system. You might even start to feel little quivers in the inner thighs or an action or activity sensation in the inner thighs that you haven't felt for maybe a while.

Exhale, super slow, slow is the key. And then inhale, take the knees open. Now we're going to take a full minute to bring the knees back together to touch. So super slow breath. You can breathe, doesn't have to be one minute breath, but you're going to have micro movements of your knees coming back together to touch.

And slow as you possibly can. You might even start to recognize one side kind of wants to lead. Just about halfway there, keep going. Quivers of joy. My teacher Rod Stryker says that's just joy escaping.

Quivers like something else, but it might be joy. All right, 10 more seconds. All right, let your knees kiss. All right, widen your feet. Let your knees knock together just for a few moments.

Your thighs kind of roll inward, internal rotation. We'll bring the knees into the chest and then let's extend the legs up towards the ceiling. Now you might be really mobile and be able to kind of lift your butt and take the legs overhead, but I'd rather have the legs kind of straight up towards the ceiling and the sitting bones kind of looking down rather than looking up. And you take the arms open or down by the sides wherever you feel stable, flex back through your feet, big toes and pinky toes. And if you're slightly less mobile, you can always bend your knees and do this.

Now cross your right leg over your left leg like a pair of scissors as high up on the upper thighs as you can. And then powerfully move the two feet away from one another. And again, doesn't look like much, but I'm already starting to feel like a little hello from my inner legs and powerfully move the feet away. Every inhale consider lengthening your spine against the mat. Every exhale powerfully move the two feet away, gauge your lower belly into the spine and up really active legs, a few more breaths.

One more, keep with it. Crazy hard, right? For something so little. Now if you really want to go crazy, lower the legs about a third of the way down. Oh goodness gracious.

Okay. Maybe we won't stay here terribly long. Couple more breaths. Again maximize the breath, so you inhale, lengthen the spine, exhale, really squeeze the inner thighs like a little kid that has to go to the bathroom and draw the belly in and up. One more breath, see if you can.

Bring your legs back up towards the ceiling, separate your legs. Remember your intention. And then we're going to cross the left leg over the right, otherwise you walk in circles when you're done with this practice. So crisscross left leg over the right, again it's higher up on the upper thighs like a pair of scissors, powerfully move the two feet away from one another and breathe. Good time to check in as you continue with this breath and this action of the inner thighs.

If other parts of the body are trying to compensate, whether it's the death grip on the floor or your jaw or your left eyebrow, it's always my left eyebrow, see if you can start relaxing what you can using the energy directed to where you need it. For fun lower the legs in this whole situation about a third of the way down. Hold on, couple of breaths. One more, you got this. Legs back up towards the ceiling, separate your legs.

Bend your poor knees into your chest, hands can come onto your knees. Apanasana, inhale, straighten your elbows, lengthen your spine against the mat. Exhale, bend the elbows. Bend your lower belly, thigh bones into the chest, keeping the seat heavy. Two more times, inhale, straighten the elbows, exhale, bend the elbows, inhale, straighten, exhale, bend.

Step the feet to the floor, offset your hips a couple inches over to the right side of your mat, stretch your left leg down the mat and bring your right knee in towards your chest. It's a bit awkward to start and just try to go with it. Breathe in and then on the exhale, bring your right knee across the body, you'll rock a bit to the outer left hip, bringing the thigh just parallel to the floor. Even if you can go deeper, just be here. Exhale through both feet and then for those that have a healthy SI joint, you might enjoy internally rotating your right thigh bone so you're dipping your knee closer to the floor but your right foot away from the floor.

You'll get a little opening here in the right SI area. The right arm can open out to the side if you'd like or cactus shape. And to zhuzh it up a little bit more, you can internally rotate your left thigh as well, your straight leg so the inner thigh flush feels like it's pinning back to the floor. Two more breaths. If this is bothersome for your SI or pelvis, leave this part out and just do a simple twist.

Okay, neutralize the rotation in both legs, bring the knee back up towards the ceiling, dip the feet to the floor. You're going to be a little bit of skew, so just send your hips back to center first and pause. Just feel, you might notice a difference in the sides of the pelvis and then scoot your hips a couple inches over to the left side of your mat, straighten your right leg down, bring your left knee in. You can open the arms to a cactus, inhale as you are, exhale, bring your knee across the body, just about parallel or so to the floor, flex your foot so it looks like an L shape, 90 degrees. Breathe in, feel that left side of the pelvis move away from your nose.

Breathe out, engage your belly. And if you want to add that little, you know, funky twist, internally rotate your left femur, your left thigh bone so the knee goes closer to the floor, the ankle goes away from the floor. If you want a little more fun, internally rotate your right thigh bone as well. And of course, breathe. Neutralize the rotation in both legs, bring the knee back up, you can send your feet to the floor, even out your seat on the mat.

We're going to move into a brief Shavasana, but since we work so hard on the back body today, you're welcome to take what I call Stonehenge. So it looks like Stonehenge. I take the blocks on their kind of medium level, pillow on top, bolster on top, make sure it feels pretty stable, and bring it fairly close into you so as you swing your legs over, they get a nice little seat, nice little support, and you'll roll down onto your back, adjust your hair and your clothes and your body, let the pillow blocks just support the weight so you don't have to do any more work. Shoulder blades softly under, eyes closed, you can take a big breath in, whole body expansive, deep breath out, melting any tension or fatigue down into the earth below. Allow yourself to rest for just a couple of minutes, absorbing, soaking in the benefits of your practice today.

Good. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You deserve your body.

Any sensation, unique pattern of holding tension or freedom in this very unique moment of right now. Begin to expand the breath, just taking a more delicious breath in and out. So you're ready. You can start to wake the body, wiggling your fingers and toes or gently rolling your head. As you feel ready, you'll bend one knee at a time, pressing your feet on the pillow or floor.

We'll roll over to the right side. Take a moment in a fetal position, a moment of gratitude for your body and how it showed up today. Pressing your left hand down into the earth, keeping your head heavy. As you slowly adjust back up into a seated position. Let's bring one hand to the heart, bow your head to the heart, reverence of your own heartbeat, the participation of your breath, your mind and movement.



Jenny S
Holy Moly! That was so subtle, and yet so intense. Lots of “escaping joy” for me with this one 😅
Kristin Leal
Hahahaha Jenny I know!! Joy everywhere;)
Kim M
Amazing. Like my inner thighs had a mind of their own! Weird, but strangely satisfying - hello inner thighs
Kristin Leal
My inner thighs often have a mind of their own Kim !! Thanks for practicing with me!
Kate M
1 person likes this.
The inclusion of this would definitely help to create a more balanced yoga sequence!
yikes! ...hard work but fun :)
Kristin Leal
1 person likes this.
hahahaha Matthew it sneaks up on you, right?
Lily A
Thank you, Kristin, for this practice. I had a teacher a long time ago who told me that it was dangerous for the spine to hold a supine twist for more than 2-3 breathes. He said that these twists could create a “memory of misalignment” in the spine if you hold for too long. Do you agree or disagree. I would love to hear your feedback and advice. Thank you!
Kristin Leal
Another great question Lily A :) If you have SI issues or Lumbar disc problems I wouldn't suggest supine twists done passively for more than 5 breaths (this includes restorative twists). I've never heard of  "memory of misalignment" but rotation is part of what a healthy spine can and should do and don't see why we couldn't attempt them if it's well aligned, done with attention and kindness and respects the individuals comfort. 

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