Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gal Yoga: The Charlie's Angel Stretch

At the risk of being pacifistically (is that a word?) incorrect, I discovered a really good stretch I hadn't come across in my training or any classes to date, which I've called the "Charlie's Angel Stretch".

The term "Charlie's Angels Hands" refers to the hands clasped with forefingers pointed like a ... gun. I got that  nugget from my teacher trainer and anatomy nurse,  Joschi Schwarz.

It's a tremendous stretch involving several muscle groups. But which? Over to Joschi ...

Congrats! I hope you're having a lot of fun teaching! Answer to your question is:

  • obliques
  • quadratus lumborum (smaller muscle in the lower back), 
  • latissimus dorsi (because arms are over your head)
  • rhomboid (shoulderblades are pulled away from each other), and pretty good for the 
  • erector spinae
  • infraspinatus
  • teres major and minor. 
  • Gluteus medius I guess plays more of an activator here.

    Great pose to create space for the hips (lumbosacral fascia).
Blue skies!

This stretch is on page 214 of the book "Hatha Yoga Illustrated", a no-frills, super-clean book of yoga poses that might have been designed by engineers, the presentation is so clinical and methodical. It's probably why a yoga teacher might like it - chakras and woo-woo aside, what you really need to teach is simplicity and structure.

I've been teaching this in my Senior and Easy Yoga classes on Tuesdays. The book demonstrates it with feet together, which does give you a more intense stretch.  I've photographed myself doing it with feet slightly spread, for those who might find feet-together a bit hard to balance. Here goes ...


1. Inhale and sweep hands up.  Clasp them together as if pointing a gun to the sky.

2. Exhale as you swivel your upper body UP and THEN over to the right, keeping the lower half of the body from hips down facing the front.

"Step away from that incense!"

You may want to micro bend the right or even both knees to take pressure off them.

You should feel quite a stretch at your left hip - the glute medius and obliques on that side are really waking up!

For those with a bit of a twingy back, this will feel like a relief - your spine and hip are open up and making some much-needed space. Well, that's how it feels to me.

Inhale then ...

3. Exhale as you circle the gun down to the floor.

From here you can do a number of things, like Prasarita Padottanasana* (wide-stance-forward bend) and all it's variations, but perhaps wait til you've done the other side.

* Sanskrit interlude:
Prasarita = spread
pada = foot
ut = intense
tan = stretch

4. Inhale as you continue in the same direction to sweep the hands overhead.
5. Exhale as you reach-bend to the other side.

You can try coming into the side stretch from the floor (leaving out step 4 above), notice how different that feels - perhaps not quite as satisfying a stretch.

That's it! Try it during the day, anytime you get that twingy feeling - sitting in an office chair for hours will do it. It really feels great and is a good prep for Trikonasana and even Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose),  parivrtta = to turn around,  revolve, trikona = triangle

Someone at work who had been moving boxes of stuff mentioned he had a stiff back, so we did this in the storeroom. Instant relief, he said.

The book features it as part of an interesting routine called Moon Salutation II.

See you all Tuesday!

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