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!
Spring is here and the time for new beginnings is upon us. From a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective, living in harmony with nature is ideal for preventing disease and perpetuating optimum health. In this season, we move from a time of restoration and inactivity to one of rebirth and expansion—which is represented by the wood element. The key energetic organ systems for spring are the Liver and Gallbladder. These organs are essential for regulating numerous systems in the body, the smooth flow of Qi, as well as detoxifying the body. Due to the important role of storing and distributing the blood in TCM, the Liver and Gallbladder rule over the body’s tendons. The tendons get very little blood circulation— which means the slightest deviation in blood flow can affect them significantly.
Just as the leaves begin to grow and the trees sprout their buds, so, too, must we start to move our bodies. Not with a crazy push or bursts of energy, but with a gradual flow in order to activate, cleanse, and lubricate tissues as we revitalize them from the slumber of winter. Twists and binds can help massage the tissues to moisten and purge accumulated debris—similar to the way you would flush a dry rag with water and wring it out before using it.
As the body becomes more fluid and supple, the flow can increase and began to expand its boundaries. Just as rain showers flow through the trees and help form new growth, we can start moving the energy and shifting our bodies and minds to new heights. The color of spring is green—which keys you into the kinds of foods that can support your body in this season. Green foods such as broccoli, cabbage, wheat grass, kale and sprouts can help the liver function and support the smooth flow of Qi and blood. When the liver is not functioning properly and the flow of Qi is disrupted, we experience the rise of emotions such as anger, frustration and depression. The opposite is true as well; when these emotions are minimized, the liver again functions effectively. Movement is vital at this time to keep the mind relaxed and the Qi flowing.
Bloom well Yogis!
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!
Have you ever noticed how you feel in different seasons? Both mentally and physically, we tend to respond to the environment around us. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on this concept. It’s rooted in the observation of nature and the unique dynamics to which nature adheres. No season is a more perfect example than winter.