I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get students (and at times teachers) to understand the importance of lifting their kneecaps. Coming from a gymnastics background, you learn at a young age what functional anatomy feels like in your body—by virtue of an insane amount of repetitions. You understand that your practice must be built on a strong foundation. There’s no way you can flip on a tiny beam without paying attention to the little details—such as the role played by the feet and kneecaps. If you’re looking for longevity in your practice, correct approach and a strong foundation are key.
Last week, we focused on understanding foot placement. Once that understanding has occurred, we can then progress to kneecaps. The best thing to do is practice by yourself, as shown in the video.
Sit down on your butt with your legs extended forward. Lift your kneecaps up towards your quads. When done correctly, the heels of the feet lift off the floor and the quads are engaged. When done incorrectly, the feet don’t lift and the quads are soft.
Sometimes students find it hard to lift their kneecaps; it might take practice using the fore-mentioned technique. Unfortunately, students often misunderstand this cue and hyperextend their knees. A hyper-extension is when you “lock out” the knee by pushing it back rather than lifting it up. This is not healthy for the knee joint and doesn’t allow you to use the bigger muscle group (the quads).
If you suffer from hyper-extension or knee pain, you may find it helpful to put a little bend in your knee as you rebuild this part of the body.
Lifting your kneecaps is something that needs to be learned at the start of the practice in something like Mountain Pose—and it must continually be practiced and understood in poses such as Plank and Triangle. This way, as your practice progresses into balancing postures (such as Warrior III) and inversions (such as Handstands), you clearly understand the role played by the lower half of the body.
4 KEYS TO FOOT PLACEMENT IN STANDING POSTURES
A common misalignment I see in yoga is incorrect foot placement. If not learned correctly at the foundational level, the issue will follow you around in both standing and balancing postures as well as inversions. Incorrect foot placement will lead to hip and knee pain which often goes unnoticed until later, when serious and irreversible damage has been done.
So what is the correct foot placement? Looking at this as a general rule and not a case-by-case basis, I would say that anytime your feet are on the mat, they should face the front—not the common heels in—toes out Charlie Chaplin stance I often see. Hip distance apart (rather than the classical feet together) is a better choice for Westerners—especially if you suffer from sciatic pain and tight hips and hamstrings. When both feet are on the mat in a pose such as Tadasana, the balance should feel even across the feet—without leaning too far forward or too far back. This balance will shift depending on the pose you are doing.
For today’s key tips and video, we will focus on foot placement in standing postures such as Triangle, where the front foot and the back foot perform different tasks. Please pay special attention to number four.
- Have your front foot face the front of the mat as described above.
- As a general rule, you should be able to draw a straight line from the heel of the front foot to the middle of your back foot.
- Pause and explore your practice if you have tighter hips and hamstrings. Take Triangle Pose again but this time draw a straight line from the front heel all the way to the back heel. Does having more space feel better for your body? If so, do your standing postures this way until you gain more mobility in the lower half of your body.
- A common misalignment with long term consequences that I see is not having the back foot turn inward enough. When you look back, you should be able to see all of your toes facing forward. To put this very simply, let’s say you’re doing Triangle pose with your right foot forward. The toes of your left (or back) foot should be facing the front left corner of your mat. The popular (and incorrect) choice is when your toes face the back left corner of the mat. If this misalignment is not fixed, you could end up ripping your groin apart!
Watch the tutorial on YouTube here!
Today we are examining hand placement, which plays a major role in the foundation of the Yoga practice. Keep reading for key alignment tips and don’t forget to watch the video!
Poses that require you to have your hands on the floor will either help build your practice correctly or will end up injuring your shoulders.
I often see students try to do more advanced postures like the beloved handstand without understanding the placement of their hands—giving them zero chance of balancing upside down. Let’s start at the beginning of the practice-focusing on understanding what we’re asking of the physical body-and build upon that. Keep reading for key alignment tips. Continue reading 5 Key Tips to Hand Placement in Yoga
7 Steps To Bow Pose
This week, I’m breaking down Bow Pose. Keep reading for key alignment tips and don’t forget to watch the video! Give love to your hip flexors next time you’re practicing by trying one of the variations described below!
1. Start by simply laying down on your belly and see how the hip flexors and low back are feeling.
2. You could remain here taking a few deep breaths or keep going by bending your knees. If bending the knees makes It hard to breathe, stay in the original position.
3. To keep going, flex your feet and grab the outside of your ankles with your hands.
4. Push your feet back toward an imaginary wall. This action will help lift your chest up, giving the shoulders a nice stretch.
5. Try rocking back and forth using your breath.
Yoga Tutorial | How To Do Half Moon
This week we are focusing on a balancing pose called Half Moon. We are using the wall as it keeps us honest. Keep reading for key alignment tips!
1. Make sure the foot placed on the wall is hip level and not any higher than that. Actively push the foot into the wall.
2. Unlike Warrior 3 where the hips are squared, in Half Moon we want the hips stacked open.
3. Lift both kneecaps towards your quadriceps
4. If you’re just learning the pose, or are less flexible, place a block underneath the bottom hand. Remember that the block has three levels so use the one that is most appropriate.
5. The foundation and stability of this pose is coming from the big toe that is on the mat. Remember to push it down firmly or lift up all of your toes.
6. Top and bottom hands should be in one nice line. To help achieve this and open the chest, pull the shoulder blades together.
7. You can test your foundation by picking up the bottom hand and see if and where you collapse.