Standing Figure 4 pose combines the challenge of balance with a deep opening for the hips.
It is one of my favourite piriformis muscle stretches to do. The piriformis is a gluteal muscle that goes from the sacrum (small triangular bone at your lower back) to the hip joint. Its job is to provide stability to the sacrum and to externally rotate the leg.
This pose is wonderful to open the hips and relieve tension in the lower back. The great thing about this it is that you can make it as deep or as gentle as you like. Do this pose anytime (it’s great after long periods of sitting) or as part of a standing series such as this.
How to do Standing Figure Four:
- Start in downward facing dog.
- Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, look forward and step or hop to the top of your mat.
- Bend your knees. Inhale, extend your arms up and lift into Chair pose. Settle in on your exhale.
- Bring your hands to heart center. Feel grounded and stable in your right foot.
- Keeping your core strong, lift your left foot away from the mat, and place your left ankle on top of your right thigh, just about your knee.
- Begin to draw your weight back into your right heel.
- Keep your hips level and slowly sit back further while also lifting your torso.
- You can keep your hands at hear center or place one on your lifted knee and the other on your ankle, gently pressing open.
- To take it deeper, fold forward at the hips, fingertips on the floor and begin to straighten your standing leg.
- To move out of the posture, bend your standing leg and bring your torso back upright.
- Hold here for a few breaths, and then gently release your left foot down to the floor, and stand back up into mountain pose.
- From mountain pose, take a deep breath in, extend your arms up and exhale into chair pose to do the other side!
You may be wobbly or have some shakiness in the standing leg. To help maintain balance, find a place to gently focus your gaze . In yoga this is referred to as drishti. Also feel free to use a wall or chair for balance.
Breath fully and patiently. This will calm your mind which will be mirrored in your posture allowing you to sink in and deepen mindfully.
This is a great alternative to pigeon which can be extremely intense. In this standing version of a hip opener, you can control the amount of weight you put into the stretch by lowering your hips.
Folding forward increases the intensity and adds a hamstring stretch.
Another variation – clasp your hands behind your back to open your shoulders and stretch your chest. This also challenges balance!