Yoga academics virtually universally advise their college students to put their ankles and massive toes collectively or line up their ft underneath their hips with the surface edges parallel to the sides of the mat—in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Utkatasana (Chair Pose). The most anatomically inclined academics urge college students to align their ft so the second toes are pointing straight ahead, positioning the tibias (shin bones) relative to the ft.
While aligning your ft in these methods might look like a good suggestion, particularly in case you are splay-footed or pigeon-toed, it might trigger long-term injury to your knees, different joints, and decrease again. Here’s why—and how one can keep away from it.
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Foot and leg anatomy
For Teachers: To examine for rotation inside the knee, calmly pinch the within and outdoors edges of your scholar’s kneecap together with your thumb and forefinger. Put your different forefinger proper on the tibial tuberosity (the bump on the highest entrance of the shin bone). The distance from right here to the sides of the patella, the place your fingers are, must be the identical.
Your legs technically begin out of your 12th ribs, which sit beside your lumbar (decrease) vertebrae. They embrace the psoas and quadratus lumborum muscle tissues in addition to the remainder of the pelvic muscle tissues that transfer or stabilize the hip joints.
The ft and legs are constructed as a collection of hinge joints, referred to as single-degree-of-freedom joints, alternating with rotational (multiple-degree- of-freedom) joints.
The balls of your ft are 5 joints that collectively act as a hinge whenever you go on tiptoe. Above them is the rotational joint beneath your ankle: Rock your ft in and out from collapsed pronation (an exaggerated rolling in of the heel towards the midline) to locked-up supination (heels roll out) to really feel this joint.
The higher ankle joint can also be a hinge. From a standing place, bend your knees and convey them again to locked to really feel your decrease legs hinging over your ft from dorsiflexion (a decreased angle between your foot and shin) to plantarflexion (an elevated angle).
Above that, within the decrease legs, there’s a small quantity of rotation between the tibia and fibula, the bones between the knee and ankle. Flex one knee so that you’re on the ball of your foot, and swing your heel in and out, like grinding out a cigarette, to really feel this rotation.
Keep shifting up your leg: The knee itself is constructed as a hinge. The ball and socket of the hip can, in fact, transfer in a number of instructions. The subsequent link within the joint chain is the sacroiliac (SI) joint. To determine this joint, really feel the outstanding bones on the dimples on the backside of the decrease again. The SI joint, additionally constructed as a easy, one-degree-of-freedom hinge, begins about an inch in entrance of these. The sacrolumbar joints, the place the backbone sits on the sacrum, permit for some rotation.
Rotational joints are restricted by bone form, proscribing ligaments, and overly tight muscle tissue. But the vary, interaction, and adaptability in rotational joints are larger than in hinge joints—that are restricted to at least one dimension.
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What occurs if you give attention to the ft?
Think about hinges corresponding to these on the display door of a porch. Each hinge works high-quality by itself so long as the screws are tight. It opens and closes, flexes and extends, and can proceed to take action for years with out restore. But if two hinges are misaligned, they’re unlikely to final various months earlier than the door is bent, the screws tear unfastened, and the body will get chewed up.
Now apply this to your legs: When you align your ft, the toe hinge and the ankle hinge will work like these of a superb display door. But your knees and decrease again could also be pushed into misalignment by aligning your ft—and which may in flip trigger hassle for your knee, SI joint, and decrease again, particularly as you problem them with harder asana.
To forestall this, most practitioners can be higher served by aligning their knees beneath their hips and again and letting their ft fall the place they could.
Hear me out: If you line up your ft however one or each knees are twisted on prime of this (see the evaluation under), you’re misaligning the hinges on the display door and risking long-term hassle. Think of strolling: If you aligned your ft as you walked, your knees and decrease again would function like these misaligned hinges and begin sporting down quicker than they need to, with bones urgent and grinding on cartilage erratically. Instead, align every knee in order that the patella (kneecap) faces ahead. This approach the necessary hinges above—within the hip, pelvis, and decrease again—will even be in alignment. Align your ft, and there isn’t a such assure.
How to examine your leg alignment
Of course, in case your ft, ankles, knees, hips, and pelvis are all really in a line, then there isn’t a drawback to unravel. Here’s how one can discover out if that applies to you:
Stand in entrance of a mirror and line up your ft in order that the second toes are dealing with ahead, however you’re in any other case in a relaxed standing posture, not forcing it. Does your pelvis lie sq. to the mirror? Put your fingertips on the entrance of your hip bones, and look right down to examine. Remember, no forcing.
Now take a look at your knees. Are your kneecaps additionally instantly aligned with the mirror, like headlights? Or are they headed in or out in contrast with the joints above and under? As you bend every knee, does the middle of the kneecap go instantly out over the second toe, or does it head off someplace by itself? If the latter, hassle might ensue in case you work from artificially aligned ft. Instead, line up your knees and work from there.
If you’re considering, Oh, I’ll simply proceed to line up my ft and merely flip my knee till it’s straight, to coach it into alignment—don’t do it. Pulling your medially rotated knee into alignment often strains the hip in lateral rotation and locks the decrease ankle joint into supination—not a superb answer, because it simply units you on a course for a special set of issues.
For academics: To do a extra exact verify for rotation inside the knee, get down and flippantly pinch the within and outdoors edges of your scholar’s kneecap together with your thumb and forefinger. Put your different forefinger proper on the tibial tuberosity (the bump on the highest entrance of the shin bone). The distance from right here to the sides of the patella, the place your fingers are, must be the identical.
If they don’t seem to be the identical (and it’s extra widespread for the within line to be longer and the surface line to be shorter), the knee is misaligned. Have this scholar work with the kneecap straight ahead till you (or a bodyworker, physiotherapist, or osteopath) can get this alignment restored.
About the Author
Tom Myers is the writer of Anatomy Trains and the co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance. He has additionally produced greater than 35 DVDs and quite a few webinars on visible evaluation, Fascial Release Technique, and the purposes of fascial analysis. Myers, an integrative guide therapist with 40 years of expertise, is a member of the International Association of Structural Integrators and the Health Advisory Board for Equinox. Learn extra at anatomytrains.com.