In my last post, I described a self-test to illuminate your balance in space. You might have found that one leg was considerably easier to balance on, teaching you about balance between the left side and right side of your body. Pay special attention to the side that gives you challenge.
To prevent injuries in yoga and in sports, the balance left to right within each leg is important. Specifically, how well do your inner thighs and outer hips work together to keep the joints of your feet, ankles, knee, and hip safe? Here’s a self-test to try.
Standing in Mountain Pose in front of a mirror, shift the weight to your left foot and lift your right leg, extending it in front of you. Slowly bend your left knee and lower your hips back into a single-legged Chair Pose. As you do, pay close attention to where your left knee moves. Does it track directly out over your left toes? Does it roll to the right or left? Repeat on the other side and watch the right knee’s progress. Notice also where you feel this: if it is work for the glutes, focus on strengthening the outer hip. If it is a stretch for the inner thighs, focus on stretching the inner thighs.
A common pattern is for the knee to track toward the midline of the body. This can be due to tightness in the inner thighs, to relative weakness in the glutes and outer hip, or to a combination of both. Harmony in the balance between the inner and outer thighs is critical for the health of your knee, as well as for your ankles and feet below it and your hip above it—hence your yoga teacher’s exhortation to keep your knee facing directly forward, over your middle toes.
If your self-test indicates weakness in the glutes and outer hip, include these poses in your practice:
- Utkatasana (Chair Pose), both holding and pulsing in and out
- Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), both stepping to lunge from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and returning to Tadasana; stepping forward from Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) to lunge and lifting to balance hands to hips, heart, or overhead
- Any split-legged standing pose based on Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) legs
- Single-legged standing balance poses
If your self-test indicates inflexibility in the inner thigh, include these poses in your practice:
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
- Malasana (Garland Pose)
- Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
- Upavista Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)
You’ll be helping keep your legs strong, flexible, balanced, and injury-free for both your sport and your yoga practice.