A primary benefit for Downward Facing Dog pose is the stretch that is delivered to the hamstrings. When we understand that the hamstrings anatomically lie in an outer track and inner track, we can make a subtle spiraling adjustment to enhance this desired benefit.
To set up this thigh spiral in Downward Facing Dog, here are 5 steps to follow:
1. experiment with aligning the feet hip width apart (roughly, center of the ankles with the hip points – aka the anterior superior iliac spinous processes)
2. adjust the heels so they flow behind the 2nd and 3rd toe (big toe is your 1st toe)
3. take note, your knee caps should be aligning vertically with the center of the ankles
4. very slightly, internally rotate the upper thigh bone (inwards spiral) without disrupting the line of the knee caps with the ankle
5. as the upper thighs spiral inwards, counter ‘spiral’ the ankles/shins by spreading the big toes away from the baby toes … this abduction of the big toe fires the abductor hallicus [see image below] muscle generating a ‘lift’ of the medial arch … additional stabilizing muscles in the ankles and feet will likely become alive and co-activate as well supporting this alignment feature
Piecing this all together:
*the inward spiraling of the upper thigh bone helps you target more of an isolated stretch in the inner hamstring track … often, students will allow the heels to be settle inwards of the big toe line that carries an outer spiral into the thigh bone, thus reduces an effective isolation of the inner hamstring track from occurring.
*without the engagement of big toe abduction (and lift of the medial arch), some students can readily allow the inner spiral from above to spiral down to the feet and generate a collapse of medial arch as well as a distorted, inwards alignment of the knee cap (genu valgus)
*the upper thigh spiral only needs to be subtle (I frequently say to students ‘a couple millimeters’) in order to avoid exaggeration and to maintain essential, knee cap alignment … like all cues, not every alignment proposed is suited for everyone so remain aware of the relationship that this alignment cue has with your unique body structures (and modify accordingly)
*play with this inner thigh spiral in other similar, hamstring-expanding poses like Standing Forward Bend Pose and Pyramid Pose.
This application of functional anatomy and many more fascinating, fundamental alignment principles will be explored in Kreg Weiss’ 100 Hr Integrative Hatha Yoga Teacher Training on February 24 – March 7, 2017 in Dubai, UAE
For more information and registration – visit our Yoga Teacher Trainings page at: www.yogalatesblissindubai.com or simply fill out the contact box below and we will revert back to you within 24 hours: