Squatting with good depth requires good balance and hip/ankle flexibility and mobility.
Many women and men have muscle and flexibility issues and imbalances that inhibit squat depth. The poor range of motion comes from tightness of the muscle within the hip joint, tightness in the calves and overall body strength. These imbalances can be easily fixed with stretches, and drills to increase your mobility. Below you will find my most common mobility drills to help you increase squat depth and get those muscles firing correctly.
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward, landing your right knee just to the outside of your right wrist and the top of your right foot behind your left wrist. The front side of your left leg will come to the floor.
Your left foot might come right behind the left wrist so that your shin is pretty parallel to the front edge of your mat but it’s more likely that the foot will feel comfortable somewhere between your left wrist and your left hip point. Wherever it lands is fine. Moving the foot closer to the wrist can cause discomfort in your
right knee so don’t put it in a position that’s painful.
Once you have your front leg situated, tuck your left toes under and scoot your left knee a little further back on your mat. Then release the top of your left foot to the floor with the toes pointing straight back (watch that it doesn’t sickle inwards!).
Now, because we think that one of the goals of this posture is to get the right buttock down to the floor, there is a strong tendency to accomplish this by shifting your weight over to the right side. Don’t do this! Yes, the buttock will be on the floor but you will have lost the entire integrity of the posture. Instead, makes sure that both hip points continue to face the front of your mat like two car headlights. This may mean that there's a big gap between your right buttock and the floor and that is perfectly ok. Now would be a good time to use a prop like a folded blanket under that side of your butt for support.
If this feels like a lot, stay upright. Otherwise, you can start to come forward over your right leg any amount. You may be able to drape your torso over your front leg and come down to your elbows or eventually bring your forehead all the way to the mat.
Once you get to a place that is comfortably edgy (meaning you feel like something is happening but it’s not going to kill you) stay for five to ten breaths or even more if you like. Pigeon is one of those poses where release can continue to happen when you stay put, especially since you’re using gravity to help you along.
Hip Flexor Stretch
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot to the inside of your right hand. If your foot doesn’t make it to the front of your mat, use your right hand to help it along.
Lower your left knee to the mat. If you find pressure on your knees uncomfortable in kneeling postures, take some extra padding under your left knee here. (A Yoga Pad is ideal for this purpose!)
Release the top of your left foot to your mat.
Lift your hands from the floor and place them on your hips or on top of your right thigh.
Move your hips toward the front of your mat any amount to intensify the stretch along the front of your left hip and thigh. Simultaneously, press strongly down through the top of your left foot and the sole of your right foot to bring tone to the muscles you are stretching. Lightly engage your glutes and quads.
Isometrically draw the left and right feet toward one another.
On an inhalation, lift your arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling, taking your gaze up toward your thumbs. You can bring your palms to touch overhead or keep them shoulders’ distance apart.
On an exhalation, lift your sternum and extend your spine to come into a backbend.
Hold for several breaths before releasing and coming to the other side.
Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are underneath your shoulders and knees are below the hips. Stay here and breathe for three to five breaths.
Inhale and slowly move your right and left knee out towards the side as you
exhale, stopping to hold and continue breathing whenever you feel the stretch. Depending on your flexibility, this step might bring a powerful stretching sensation to your inner thighs and groin area. Avoid pain and do not force your body into a deeper stretch than it's ready for.
Continue opening your hips as you turn your feet out towards the side and flex your ankles so that your inner feet, inner ankles, and inner knees are touching the floor. If your ankles need cushioning, place a blanket underneath them. If a blanket is already on your mat shift so both the knees and ankles are on the blanket for support.
Slowly lower down to your forearms with the palms either flat on the floor or pressed together. If this feels too intense, stay on your palms or bring forearms onto blocks.
Stay here and breathe deeply for a count of five to 10 breaths or for as long your body comfortably desires. Your breath, as in all yoga poses, is an excellent guide. If you're pushing yourself too far in the stretch, your breathing will become shorter and more forced. If you can take long, slow, deep breaths, it's an indication that the stretch is appropriate for your body.
To release frog pose, slowly slide your knees closer together and return to the tabletop position. Alternatively, some people prefer exiting the pose by sliding their feet together on the mat and pressing their hips back into a wide-kneed variation of child's pose.