The tourniquet effect

Spoiler:  My nightmare came to light; someone limped out of my class yesterday

During yesterday’s Yoga class my goal was to open and heal the hips.  Women especially hold a lot of tension in their hip joints – both emotional and physical stress.  It comes from past injuries, misalignment, incorrect posture, bad habits and even just lethargy.  Lack of nourishment from proper movement to these hard to maneuver joints can create an environment of stagnation that leads to inflammation and pain with movement.  Ewww.  I want vitality in my joints – especially big weight baring ones like my hips.  They support and cradle the weight of  your entire torso/upper body and provide the range of motion for your low limbs.  Hips belong on an altar.  Since we couldn’t do that I decided to make them the body part of the day. 


Among other things,

We started with this:



Source:  Yoga Journal

Thread-the-needle to stretch the outer hips.  Remember hips have a wide range of motion and many aspects.  We sprinkled in a little of this:


Source:  Bikram Yoga Boston

Wind-removing-pose.   This is a great example of the tourniquet effect in yoga.  The intent is to cut off blood supply to a major joint temporarily.  When the posture or hold is released there is a FLOOD of fresh, rich oxygenating blood supply flowing to the joint.  Very, very healing.  You can feel the warm flow of new healing blood rush to the joint.  It’s awesome.  Several poses can achieve this same end.  Like:


Source:  me

Garland Pose.   Ignore the super-bad form.  (I am rolling in on the inside arches of my feet and my sitz bones should be parallel to the floor.  For the record, this picture is 7 months old.  I’ve much improved!!  BUT you get the drift on what is happening my hip joints.  Nothing getting through that flexion.  The tourniquet effect, step 1.  Cut of blood supply.  Simply returning the hip flexors to neutral (or standing) will send the rush of healing blood.  The tourniquet effect, step 2.  But we did this:



Lizard Pose.  Focus, right leg.  Look how beautifully open that hip flexor is.  Fresh blood supply just oozing in healing and nourishing.  I can almost feel it.

It’s a beautiful thing.  Like everything, when it’s in balance.  You don’t want to cut off the blood supply too long and you don’t want to over stretch into the joint’s open place either.  This is what makes yoga, a mindful practice.

So, one of my students seemed to be limping a bit out of class.  Help.  A newer teacher, this is my worst nightmare.  I asked how she was and she said her hips hurt.  This was the opposite of my intention, I wanted the sequence to heal.  I know this lady’s abilities pretty well as she is a regular and I was not worried at all about her lizard pose because I have seen her do marvelous things with her hips.  She confessed she over stretched – allowed too much body weight to be released into the joint as she stretched it open.  She was cheerful and seemed confident it would work itself out.  I know it will.

As a teacher I learned to weave even more a good balance of encouraging your body to do new things and recognizing signals to back off.  Like the tourniquet effect, a perfect blend of cutting off and letting in is remarkably healing.

What did you cut off, what can you let in?

2 thoughts on “The tourniquet effect

  1. My yoga teacher often emphasizes opening the hips in her classes. We almost always do half pigeon towards the end of class and this pose terrifies me. Settling in to that pose and releasing the tension stored in my hips is the hardest part of a challenging class.

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