To stretch the glutes, which act mainly to move the thigh outwards to the sides (abduction) you can move the thigh inwards, across to the opposite side of the body so that the outside of the hip is opened.
Another option is to move the pelvis relative to the thigh in such a way that the side of the hip joint is opened.
A gentle start to stretching the glutes is to pull the knee across the body when preparing for ardha matsendrasana. In this glute stretch, have the top leg foot beside the bottom leg knee.
Pull it over and back towards the opposite side. Keep the pelvis immobile as you do this.
To change the stretch try adjusting the position of your pelvis. Try lifting the top leg hip or try sinking it down.
You can also try moving the top leg side of the pelvis backwards or forwards relative to the bottom leg side.
However, once you've adjusted the position of your pelvis, keep it fixed in position as you pull your leg to the side so that you stretch your glutes.
Another leg stretch for the glutes is to do badha konasana with the feet together but about 2 feet in front of the pubic bone. Open your knees out to the sides. To stretch your glutes (or to increase the stretch) tilt your pelvis forwards.
To add weight to this pose you can lift your head and lengthen your neck and then from there lift your hands off of the floor and slowly reach them forwards.
A slightly more intense stretch is Painful Pose. The set up is similiar to low lunge, however turn the front foot outwards 90 degrees. Move your body and back knee back until your front leg shoulder is over the foot when viewed from the side.
Lift the inside edge of your front foot. Shift your weight towards your front foot side and then press your knee back.
Keep your elbows straight and focus on pushing your front leg knee back and down. To add weight to the pose, lift your back knee.
To deepen the glute stretch place your elbows on the floor and optionally lift your back knee.
The final variation is to place hands on the floor and bend your elbows to sink your chest down. Aim to get your front leg shoulder to your front foot. Add weight by lifting your back knee.
A slightly less painful variation of painful pose is to bring the back leg forwards and prop the front foot on top of the back leg knee. With hands on the floor behind your back you can push your chest towards your shin. To increase the stretch, move the bottom foot back more, towards the hips.
You can also reach the arms forwards and grab the bottom foot. If you press the top of the foot forwards you can use your foot to help pull your chest forwards.
A final variation that turns this is into a twist, and a shoulder stretch, as well as a stretch for the glutes, is to reach the same side arm (same side as the top leg) past the bottom of the foot. Grab either the shin of the foot (or use a towel or strap looped around the foot.
For all of these leg stretches keep your neck long and your chest open.
If you enjoy the above leg stretch you might also enjoy armpit pose.
This set of poses is designed to show you how to activate the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards so that you stretch the front of the torso. It also includes stretches like upright pigeon pose and upward facing dog for stretching the front of the hip (the hip flexors).
The latest stretch in the "Stretches for Beginners" series is a set of hip extensor stretches including happy baby and low lunge. Previous stretches in this series include bound angle (baddha konasana) and a pigeon pose hip stretch for the sides of the hip.
For well being is it better to be able to contract a muscle or relax it? I'd suggest that you learn to do both and just as importantly... Learn to feel when a muscle is activated and when it is relaxed.
The key to both is...
The yoga basics bundle is a collection of five yoga basics ebooks: balance basics, shoulder basics, backbend basics, hamstring basics and the hip control guide all for $52.00. (The suggested regular price is $124.95)
Consciousness is like the Captain of a ship. At times the ship it commands can be very big with lots of sailors to tell what to do, at other times the captain is sailing solo, taking care of the sails and the tiller.
This is a mini-routine that I've been using in my classes recently to teach awareness and control of the foundation in poses like
table top, high lunge, low lunge, extended cat pose, and yoga push ups (leading to chaturanga dandasana.)
This can lead to smoother and more mindful movement.
Tensegrity basics: tension doesn't just integrate the body, it can be used for proprioception and for responsiveness and quicker reactions.
What is proper yoga alignment for handstand? Why not learn to feel and control your shoulders and ribcage so that you can learn to feel when your body is best aligned.
In this video some tips for body weight squat and the one legged pistol squat with a focus on "feeling your body."
Why do a pistol squat? To improve hip strength and left/right hip balance. This may help to alleviate low back pain.
This dance of shiva video playlist includes cyclic movement combinations: F-F, B-B, F-B, B-F, CF-CF, CB-CB, CF-CB, CB-CF.
Learn how to stabilize the shoulder and hip in side plank.
This video goes over some basic body awareness exercises you can do while working towards side plank.
This Beginners Yoga Routine is from the ebook Yoga Basics 2, Muscle Control and Stability Exercises for More Flexible Hamstrings. It's designed to introduce a sequence of basic yoga poses.
Having trouble getting your heels down in downward facing dog? Here's an easy way to sink them lower included with a discussion on how to use downward dog as a preparation for wheel pose.
Simple instructions for getting into yoga tree pose and how to make both sides even while doing this yoga balancing pose.
In triangle pose work on hip stability and foot and leg control to help sink the ribcage towards the leg.
The following is a series of gentle yoga for back pain relief. The head is supported in nearly all postures allowing the muscles of the back and hip to relax in a variety of positions.
Conscious proprioception is the ability to focus awareness on discrete elements of the body. It can lead to easier learning of physical activities or simply better movement and body control.
Lots of people hate purvottanasana. Try pushing the hands forwards against the floor to make revese plank/straight bridge easier.
An overview of the sequence of ashtanga yoga poses with links to more detailed descriptions.
Turn forward bending and backbending yoga poses into hamstring strengthening exercises for better hamstring awareness and control.