Lowering the Leg with Toe Creep
When we straighten the leg, we tighten behind the knee because we shorten the hip flexors on the front of the leg, and the hamstrings/gastrocnemius on the back of the leg.
The following exercise helps to release the hips by keeping the knee direction while lowering the leg into extension, which inhibits the tightening of the hip flexors and the muscles on the back of the leg. Done properly, and this exercise undoes the psoas muscles crossing the front of the hips, the hamstrings behind the knee, and even the inner thigh.
1. Lying in semi-supin, give your directions, paying special attention to your knees. If a teacher is helping, the teacher places fingers under one of your knees as you direct it to the ceiling, which begins to release the hamstrings and hip joint.
2. The student now begins to lower or extend this leg by creeping the foot forward with the toes. The idea is to move the leg with the foot and to tighten as little as possible in the hips and thighs.
3. As the foot advances, continue to direct your knee up and also forward to release across the hip. Be sure not to tighten in the from to the hip and to allow the knee to go away from the hip.
4. When you cannot advance the foot any further, begin to dorsiflex the foot so that you will begin to lead with your heel to lower the leg. Continue to direct your knee and to tighten as little as possible in your hip. As the leg extends, the knee will begin to drop because there is nothing supporting it from below. Before advancing the foot any further, give your primary directions, paying particular attention to your knee, which must be directed upwards so that it doesn't drop down toward the floor.
5. Allowing your heel to slide forward on the floor to extend the leg further, be sure to continue to direct the knee upward and to release across the front of your hip in order to counter the tendency to drop the knee.
6. Do this in small increments until the leg is fully extended on the table, continuing at each point to direct the knee upwards. Allow your leg to lengthen our of your hip and to release in the gluteal muscles.
7. Continuing to direct the knee, quickly raise your leg at the knee so that the knee is again pointing to the ceiling. Give your directions to your head, back, and knees.
Go through the same process with the other leg and, when you have finished, give your directions to both knees, allowing the thighs and hip flexors to release. If you have gone through the process slowly and thoughtfully, you should experience some release in the hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles, which will allow the knees to go forward and away.