Home' Australian Yoga Life : sample issue Contents australian yoga life • december-february 2010
Playing it SafesafeBy Marita Dortins back
The benefits of Virabhadrasana II are
enormous -- this pose helps to
strengthen and open the thighs and hips,
and can correct a misalignment of the
femur that often leads to knee problems.
Warrior II requires a strong external
rotation of the leading leg. This rotation
comes from the head of the thigh bone
turning in the hip socket. The flexibility
of the muscles surrounding your hip
socket, the mobility of your ligaments
and tendons, and the structure of the
bones comprising your hip joint will all
have a huge impact on the ease with
which you achieve this rotation.
The hip joint
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint,
with the ball-shaped head of the femur
(thigh bone) sitting into the acetabulum
(the cup-like socket of the hip bone).
This structure allows for a broad range of
movement: forward and back, side to
side, and round in circles. At the same
time, it provides considerable stability.
This is important considering the amount
of weight-bearing required of this joint.
The positioning of the acetabulum
varies between individuals. In some
people, this socket faces directly out to
the side, at a 90 degree angle from the
front of the body. In other individuals, it
faces forward and out to the side, at
approximately a 60 degree angle from
the front of the body. The shape and
depth of the acetabulum also differs
between people. On some individuals,
the acetabulum is a shallow hollow; on
others it's a deep cup and the ridges
forming its edges can have high peaks.
Additionally, the angle at which the neck
and head of the femur protrude from the
rest of the thigh bone varies.
All of these structural differences
impact on your ability to turn your thigh
out to a full 90 degrees. Obviously, when
the acetabulum faces directly out to the
side, the potential for strong external
rotation is enhanced. A shallow
acetabulum will allow for greater
mobility. A deep socket provides less
room for movement, as the neck of the
femur can hit the edges of the socket.
This bone-on-bone compression will
mean there is nowhere else to go.
Of course, for the majority of
people, a lack of flexibility in the
network of strong muscles surrounding
the hip joint means that rotation will be
limited long before two bones collide.
As a general rule, if you are feeling a
stretch, your muscular flexibility is the
limiting factor right now, and your hips
will gradually open further. If you feel no
stretch and simply can't go any further,
the lack of movement is more likely to
be a result of the shape of your bones.
In Warrior II, the leading knee points
directly over the leading toes. This
ensures safe alignment of the knee.
Unfortunately, a common
instruction is to square the hips towards
the long edge of the mat. Very few yoga
practitioners can safely square the hips
and point the knee directly over the toes.
To achieve this, you need to be able to
turn your femur a full 90 degrees from
the front of your pelvis. As discussed,
for many people this is impossible,
either as a result of tight muscles or
One common result of squaring the
hips is that the right knee (assuming the
right leg is the leading leg) falls inwards,
and the right hip juts out behind you, as
often seen in beginning students. This is
more often than not accompanied by an
exaggerated curve of the lower back.
The quadriceps (thigh) muscles then
aren't working evenly, and knee
problems can be exacerbated.
The other likely outcome, when
aiming to both square the hips and point
the leading knee directly over the toes, is
compression of the sacroiliac joint (the
In issues 23 and 24 of Australian Yoga Life, Marita Dortins explained how differing
anatomical structure can impact upon our ability to achieve textbook-perfect alignment
when practising Downward or Upward Facing Dog. In this issue, she looks at
Virabhadrasana II, or Warrior II, one of the most frequently practised standing asanas.
Links Archive Navigation Previous Page Next Page