Ankle to Knee Pose: A Seated Hip Opening Pose to Stretch from the Outer Hip into the Lower Back
These poses are powerful for opening from the outer hips into the lower back. For most people, these ankle to knee variations are a little more intense than the Cow Faced variations from the previous post. If the postures are applied in a way that is appropriate for the practitioner they can help reduce tension from the hips to the back and which can help the heath of your spine.
However, with ankle to knee particularly, you need to be careful that the knee does not have unwanted stress on it. You are using the knee as a fulcrum to rotate the hip and, even if it seems that you have good alignment, if you go too far you can stress your knee and over time this could lead to damage. You want your knees in a position as close to a 90-degree angle as possible and your shins as close to parallel to each other as possible in all the variations. If the knee is bent farther than 90-degrees it is easier to damage the cartilage in the knee (the cartilage in the knee is called meniscus or menisci: singular=meniscus, plural=menisci). Therefore, when you are trying to open the outer hip it is worth proceeding with caution. If you were doing a posture like Lotus pose which requires a deeper than 90-degree bend in the knee your hips should be open enough so that it is not an intense hip stretch in order for it to be safe.
In this first variation the feet are under the knees, which helps protect the knees and makes the depth of the rotation gentle. If this one feels deep enough this is the variation that should be used. If this is too deep, or if your knees cannot rest comfortably on your feet then you should do one of the variations lying on your back.
This second variation is a little deeper. The shin and foot is resting on top of the lower leg's calf. This variation should only be done if you can fully rest the top shin on the lower shin. If the top shin is not fully resting on the lower shin this one can be more dangerous to the knees than either of the other variations. This variation is deeper than the previous variation but not as deep as the next variation.
This last variation is the deepest of the three. The ankle has come across to the outside of the knee and is not touching the leg. This one can be practiced safely even if the top shin does not rest on the lower shin. However, if the top shin is more than an inch or two above the lower shin, you should not fold forward. Instead you should stay upright and hold the pose feeling the opening there. You should only fold forward in this posture if the top shin is either resting on the bottom shin or close enough to it so that when you fold it does rest on the bottom shin. This pose should also not feel too intense and if you feel the stretch is too intense or that there is stress in the knees you need to back up to one of the previous variations or one of the variations lying on your back.
Go to: Reclining Hip Opening Postures to Reduce Stress in the Outer Hips and Lower Back
Go to: Cow Faced Pose: Gomukhasana: A Seated Hip Opening Pose to Reduce Tension in the Outer Hip and Lower Back