Early in the 26/2 series, Awkward Pose warms up your leg muscles and begins to open up your hips and lower back.
The alignment cue that unites all three parts of Awkward Pose is keeping your feet parallel. Most of us come to class with tight hips that try to pull our heels in closer as we move more deeply into the parts of the posture. To get a deeper opening of the hips, it’s important to try to keep the heels truly invisible behind the toes.
After that, each part has its own challenges and glories. This month, we’ll pay attention to all the alignment cues with a special focus on your feet for parts I, II, and III.
(For a more detailed description of Awkward Pose, please read our October 2016 blog post on the subject.)
In the first part of Awkward, you are building tremendous strength (and warmth) in your legs, and you are also opening up your hips.
To take full advantage of both benefits, sit down as close as you can possibly get to thighs-parallel and then bring your weight fully back into your heels. You should be able to wiggle your toes in this posture, although you will leave them flat on the floor.
You eventually lift your chest into a backbend in this posture, but begin with a flat back so you counterbalance the weight in your heels with your extended arms and upper body.
It can feel…awkward…to stick your butt as far back as you really need to in this posture, but a more exaggerated position is usually correct. Feel for a deep stretch to your glutes.
In the second part of Awkward, your weight is up on your toes. You are actually pushing the mound of your big toe – the fleshy part just beneath the actual toe – down into the floor. Lift your heels as high as you can, and push the tops of your feet toward the front mirror.
Really and truly, come up as high as you can. You will have to learn to balance up there, and it might take a while to develop the foot and ankle strength and flexibility that you need, but the higher you can get, the easier it is to hold the posture.
One big challenge in the third part of Awkward is lowering down very close to your heels without collapsing down all the way.
Really squeeze your inner thighs together (think third set of bridges in Hot Pilates!) as you slowly lower down. Better not to go down quite as far and sustain your strength than to collapse all the down and just “hang out” on top of your heels.
You’re not up all the way on your toes like you were for the second part of this posture, but your heels will definitely be up off the ground. Toes and heels still hip width distance.
Bonus points for resisting the urge to collapse down and use momentum to rebound back up at the end of the posture! Hold onto that strength!
Inferno Hot Pilates Move of the Month:
This month we’ll be focusing on the calf-raises aspect of the bridge work done at the beginning of class.
Just like in the second part of Awkward, you are trying to come up onto your toes as high as possible. Focus on pushing the mounds of your big toes into the floor as you rise up, pushing the tops of your feet (where your shoelaces would be) away from you. Avoid allowing your weight to roll out to the side of your foot, toward your baby toes. As you do in Awkward, when you lower your heels back down to the floor, do it slowly, with control, building strength through eccentric muscle contraction.
–Ellen Olson-Brown, The Hot Yoga Factory Chelmsford