Crisscross Your Downward Dog for a Hip Stretch That ‘Feels Like Heaven’

Photo: Getty Images/FatCamera
Get comfortable in downward dog and you've found the baseline for your yoga practice. The pose strengthens your shoulders, stretches your hamstrings, and melts away lower back tension. That's not all it can do, though. Just cross one leg in front of the other and your downward dog position transforms into a hip stretch.

"When you cross the legs in down dog or forward fold, you're releasing the muscles that overcompensate and cause friction in the iliotibial (IT) band," says Lindsay Pirozzi of New York City’s Y7 studio. The simple act of criss-crossing targets the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), a muscle that wraps around your front hip. "When we stretch our TFL, it feels like heaven for the tendon-like structure and thick fascia of the IT band."

Did you hear that? She said "like heaven."

How to turn your downward dog position into a heavenly hip stretch

You can also perform the crisscross position in a standing forward fold

  1. To move into the hip stretch, start in a normal downward dog with your knees slightly bent, triceps spinning inward, and shoulders engaged.
  2. Walk your right foot over to your left, then cross the left over it so your legs are forming an "X".
  3. If you feel open, slowly push your left foot toward the floor.
  4. Hold for three breaths and switch sides.

Now for a full flow:

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