You go into stretching with the best of intentions. Maybe you want to release your neck, or finally care for those oh-so-tight hamstrings. The problem arises when you accidentally tweak another muscle while you’re hyper-focused on the stretch. And, according to trainer Chloe de Winter of Go Chlo Pilates, this is a common mistake in the much-beloved figure four pose.
“Today, I’m going to show you how to do a figure four stretch, which is one of the best stretches you can do to open up into your glutes and into your tight hips,” says de Winter in this week’s episode of The Right Way, a YouTube series where New York City’s top trainers break down the proper form on everything from strength moves to stretches.
Figure four pose involves lying flat on your back with your lower belly slightly engaged. Then you cross your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the knee, and hug your legs toward you by clasping your hands around your left hamstring, or around your shin. Pretty soon, you’ll feel the stretch along your outer left hip–and it feels wonderful. But, like any stretch, there’s a right and wrong way to do it.
“The first mistake I see with a figure four stretch all the time is having no head and neck support,” de Winter says. When you go to reach for your legs to deepen the stretch, you may lift your head and shoulders off the ground, then keep them there. All this does is introduce tension into your upper body. So while your outer hip is getting the relief it deserves, you may just find yourself in need of a neck stretch tomorrow.
Instead, you’ll want to keep your neck and head completely relaxed on the floor. But if this feels like a little too much, know that you can always release your legs, place your left foot flat on the floor, and reap all the benefits of the stretch by simply pressing that right knee (gently) away from you with the palm of your right hand.
Don’t forget to watch the video from start to finish to learn even more about mastering figure four pose. Feel the goodness, fam.