I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I know other people have written about the same pose relatively recently.
I’ve been avoiding writing this post because, when it comes to this pose, I’m not sure I’m qualified to explain. Then again, when it comes to asana, I’m not technically qualified to explain most of what I write. So I’m not sure why that should bother me now.
I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I’m not sure what I want to say. Needing to think carefully is sometimes an uncomfortable feeling. It is summer vacation, after all.
To recap, I’ve been looking at the psoas for the last several hip posts. The progression has basically looked like this:
- A quick anatomy rundown.
- A pose that stretched the psoas that would also be suitable for most people to do relatively early in their practices.
- A pose to bring heat to and strengthen the hip flexors.
Ideally, I’d find one last pose that stretches the hip flexors more deeply and that would be suitable for later during a sequence. Only, I wanted to make sure it was a pose I hadn’t detailed before (maybe ruling out camel and bridge) as well as one that would be accessible to a fair number of people (maybe ruling out hanumanasana and some of the pigeon variations I use).
I spent a lot of time wandering aimlessly through books and sites of asanas before I was re-introduced to wild thing. (Please note: If you are like me, you will now hear this song in your head any time someone mentions the pose, even if they call it by one of its other names — camatkarasana or flip the dog.) I hesitated at first because the way I learned to enter wild thing was by flipping down dog, which involves a mental leap of faith and good physical control of the low back.
Then I discovered: There is another way to enter wild thing — from side plank. All these years, I had been doing it the hard way**.
Obligatory Disclaimer: While this is me breaking down and explaining this asana to the best of my ability: 1) I am not a certified yoga teacher, and this is not professional advice; 2) I am not in the same room with you to check in. If wild thing is not already in your practice, you will want to use your own best judgment and/or consult a knowledgeable teacher in-person, if possible.
Also, apologies for the angle and the fact that sometimes relevant body parts fling their way out of the shot. I do not, however, apologize for the bras hanging from my closet door or the fact that I refused to crop Casey out of the shots. 😉
Wild Thing — The Hard Way (From Down Dog):
Second quick note: If any of these steps feels like it is your edge, it’s okay to stop there and get used to that new place for a while.
- I start in downward facing dog.
You will likely want to allow yourself more lateral space than I did, approximately one mat width on each side, give or take.
- I raise one leg, allowing that hip to open up toward the side. I already begin to feel some stretch in the psoas muscle on the lifted leg.
I feel my shoulders twisting along with the lifted leg. To some extent, that is unavoidable though I try to keep my shoulders as square as possible by grounding into both hands evenly.
- I bend the top knee, pressing into the ball of the foot. I feel like I’ve heard that keeping the top foot active helps protect the knee or the low back or something. All I know is that it makes sense to me because I am going to land on that foot in a second, and I want it ready to support me.
I feel even more stretch in my psoas here, though it’s not overwhelming for me. And the reason I turn my head to look at my foot is twofold. First, I like the backbendy feeling. Two, what I am about to do with that foot scares me just a little even now, so I like to keep an eye on it as long as possible.
- Then I drop that foot behind me and square my hips to the ceiling.
For me, that split second of free fall — when it’s too late to go back but I’m not on the ground yet — is the scary part. It’s also one point where, if I don’t keep my abdominals activated and my pelvis in neutral, it can also impinge on my low back, which is never fun.
- Still “scooping” in my pelvis, I press the fronts of my hips toward the ceiling.
This is a place where I can stretch both psoas muscles (psoases?) at once, and it is kind of awesome. Also, the raised arm reaches out in line with its shoulder so that I can square my chest to my hips. Even though the pose isn’t strictly symmetrical, my torso is as un-twisted as possible.
So, yeah. That’s down dog to wild thing. I’ve been doing it that way for about ten years, and the drop back — even if it is small — still scares me every time. But as I learned, like, two weeks ago — there is an easier way.
** Realistically, I know that what each person finds difficult or easy is going to vary from body to body and mind to mind. That said, I find entering from side plank to be much easier both physically and mentally, as it involves a shorter dropback and less bending of the spine on the way down.