FOOT PLACEMENT IN YOGA
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.
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 rather than 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, 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.
I would strongly suggest you began your exploration of the feet by lifting all your toes every time you practice. Most days, I still practice with lifted toes for two reasons: it has helped to strengthen the ankle I once broke, and it helps me “feel” my feet. I first did this subconsciously when I started practicing, as I kept seeing yogis around me falling when attempting balancing postures.
As I’m naturally curious, I wondered what it would feel like if I lifted my toes. So I tried it—and liked it!
Remember that the feet are the “Uber” of your body. They take you everywhere—so you better be nice to them!
HAND PLACEMENT IN YOGA
Hand placement plays a major role in the foundation of the practice. 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.
There’s a tendency to sit in the heel of the hand. In addition to causing long-term pain, this also causes your thumb and index finger to lift—which ends up being one of the biggest misalignments I see. This is a wrong approach and huge mistake. The proper approach is to keep your thumb and index finger super glued to the mat.
The magic here is created by pressing through your fingertips and allowing the heel of the hand to stay light. This activates your flexors and extensors. No one should be able to lift their fingertips while their hands are placed down on the mat—whether they’re doing plank pose, down dog or a handstand. The same principles apply. However, you should always be able to lift up the heel of your hand with ease.
I myself practice on ridge tops or fingertips, and I encourage my students to do the same. For me, it gets my flexors and extensors involved and I don’t deal with wrist pain. Try it out and see how it feels for you!