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Archive for December, 2014

“In standing asanas, never ever let the inner arch of your feet collapse. This will weaken the inner menisci. Again there is a correlation between collapsed arches and/or knocked knees and knee problems. Knocked knees are contributed to by fallen inner arches of the feet but also by tight adductors and weak abductors.
In all standing postures such as Trikonasana, micro-bend (2 degrees) the front leg and make a swiping movement with your front foot towards the back foot. Never ever push out through the knee down to the floor in an attempt to hyperextend the leg. This would weaken and stretch your cruciate ligaments. The vast majority of knee injuries shows an involvement of ligamentous laxity of the cruciates prior to the actual meniscus tear.
In standing postures be precise in placement of the feet, i.e. turn out of 85 degrees means 85 degrees and not 84. This will make a big difference.” Gregor Maehle

“One of the most foundational standing posters for external hip rotation, you build strength and flexibility. Engage the deep six hip rotator muscles to draw the head of femur deeper into its socket and roll back and down to facilitate the external gliding motion in the ball socket of the hip joint.: – Kino Macgregor

This topic was a request. Thank you to the requestor for inquiring.

As a teacher and practitioner who is interested in classic form in teaching and practice, I get asked WHY a lot. Why do I teach a certain pose (Trikonasana is todays example) when so and so teaches it a different way. When I teach or practice yoga, I have categorized asanas as follows:

Form – The form is somewhat of an ideal of the pose.
Modification – The form is changed due to contraindication.
Variation – The Heinz model, 57 variations, to make life interesting.

Each pose does have an ideal form. If that form is not appropriate for a particular student then you modify and you understand WHY you are modifying. Variations are forms of the pose that get ‘made up’ as we trudge through MPY and many of these forms have become acceptable and many students and teachers as the correct form of the pose. For example, I get questioned a lot on bringing the hand to the floor or hand to foot in certain standing poses. I have students tell me that other teachers tell them NEVER to do that, but without giving them a reason. Although I don’t like to think of myself as a curmudgeon, I do feel they owe at lease that and my way is not necessarily the right way. In certain schools of yoga you do a pose one way and in other’s it is incremental. I don’t define my way of practice/teaching as stylistic anyways. I don’t need to label it. If you know what you are teaching/practicing and are modifying of giving a variation, know and understand and relate the benefit/reason/purpose, and the statement “that is how I like it” is NOT good enough. If you practice it a way to support and injury/condition/contraindication, that doesn’t necessarily translate into how EVERYBODY should practice it.

Here is the classic form of Trikonasana:

tri3

This is Mr. Iyengar in Trikonasana. The following two pictures of Trikonasana are Iyengar variations.

TRI1

This first modification is to work through the lengthening of the spine. The next modification is to work the hips into a correct lateral flexion.

tri2

In “Light on Yoga” Mr. Iyengar always shows the optimal form of each pose with no modifications or props. His instructions are to simply turn the feet from facing the wide angle of the mat and bend to the right. He indicates the benefits are strong legs and flexible spine. I have yet been to an Iyengar class where they have us bring the hand to the floor. Yesterday we practiced with yet another modification and with different props. We used a chair against the wall and a wall strap to bring the top arm behind us to get the correct alignment and rotation in the shoulders. We kept the bottom arm on the chair, so the spine was somewhat high, yet this breakdown, like all of them, felt very deep and specific.

tri3

The next two pictures I would consider variations. They are prevalent on the web and the focus is more on the torso and upper body. I know teachers teacher releasing the arms over the head to work the ‘Core’, but the bandhas should be engaged in any form or modification. The binding is a variation and I am going to guess that the teacher is prepping for a standing ‘bird of paradise’ option later in class:

triangle4

triangle5

In the last example, the Ashtanga form is shown:
tri6

The hand grabs the big toe and you can see the stance is somewhat shorted. The shorter stance makes sense with a higher lift of the hand off the ground. The short stance with a palm to the floor would be appropriate for those with very open hamstrings and/or longer arms proportional to torso/legs.

What is important to remember is that this is standing foundation pose for all styles. Per Gregor and Kino, the focus is on several movements:

– External hip rotation (Maty Ezraty has an excellent method of teaching this along with the back leg movement)
– Lateral flexion
– External shoulder rotation

The primary focuses addressed by Gregor and Kino is the low body. This may be one of the first yoga poses where a newer student is practicing external hip rotation in preparation for deeper floor seated work. Culturally and lifestyle wise Westerners are flexion dominant. We are also weak in the feet. Learning the proper energetic work in the foot to support the hip movement allows the knee to stay safe. This is important. In David Keil’s new anatomy book he addresses the pyramid structure of the arches of the feet. Understanding the energy of the feet can really shift our perspective of leg and pelvic structure. We can work on these poses for years and never perfect it. (Tias Little also refines this in his teacher training in a way that PROFOUNDLY changed my own practice/teaching) The Core and Arm variations are secondary. As I said, there should always be teaching and continual bandha focus.

A simple pose is as complex as the willingness of the mind to continue to inquire and to pursue the light of deeper knowledge. If you think it is simple, you haven’t gone far enough.

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