Standing Posti

Again returning to the importance of foot position, the angle posture is easiest if your rear foot faces straight out to the side, but when you rotate it somewhat medially, as suggested, or even more (up to 6o°), it places increasing stretch on the lateral rotators of the thigh (the adductor longus and adductor magnus), and this starts to limit your forward bend. This is surprising: we might at first think that only the thigh which you are facing would limit a forward bend, since that's what's getting the hamstring stretch, but experimenting with different angles for the rear foot wdl make it plain that the rear lateral rotators can easily become the limiting elements to the bend.

The rear foot brings attention to the roles of the lateral rotators, but the front foot, the one you are facing, brings awareness to the medial rotators of the thigh (the gluteus medius and minimus) in addition to the obvious stretch in the hamstrings. The medial rotators are in a neutral position and are only moderately stretched any time the foot is pointed straight ahead, as is usual for this posture, and they will be relieved even of that tension if the foot is rotated medially 10-15°. For something really different, try rotating the front foot laterally, and you'll quickly sense the role of these muscles as medial rotators, because they instantly tighten up and limit the bend. These experiments reveal that analyzing the angle posture only with respect to the hamstrings of the front thigh is fine for an introduction to the posture, but just the beginning for anyone who is interested in serious study.

In day-to-day life you bend forward to pick up objects, bend back moderately to stretch, and twist to look and reach. But except for cocking your head sideways, you do not often bend your spine to the side. We call this movement lateral flexion. It is unnatural in daily life and uncommon in hatha yoga, at least in comparison with other bends, but is usually just slipped in here and there during the course of more complex postures. Here we'll look at it in its pure form so we can recognize it within more intricate poses.

ETechnical note: The idea of a "pure" side bend is an oxymoron. There is no such thing because the vertebral column, in adapting to lateral flexion, actually rotates slightly both above and below the main region of the bend rather than generating a strictly lateral movement. The same thing can be seen in a mechanical model in which metal cylinders represent vertebral bodies, and 'nterposed short cork cylinders represent intervertebral disks. In accommodating to a bend, the combination of metal and cork cylinders (which together modei the anterior functional unit of the spine) reveals mirror image rotations on either side of the middle section of the bend.l

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