We use cookies in order to save your preferences so we can provide a feature-rich, personalized website experience. We also use functionality from third-party vendors who may add additional cookies of their own (e.g. Analytics, Maps, Chat, etc). Read more about cookies in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. If you do not accept our use of Cookies, please do not use the website.

Skill Building: The Foundation in Alignment

September 03 2018
September 03 2018

Staying healthy is a primary concern. Our joints last a lifetime with attentive care: yet they take a lot of unhealthy punishment if we mistreat them. Understanding the anatomy of the foot, ankle, and knee joint along with their proper movement and alignment while under stress, and how to strengthen them gives us a safe and enjoyable practice, and a knowing sense of calm that our practice will not elicit harm.

For principles of foundation alignment, we might begin by researching the history of yoga. In the past, a student practiced one-on-one with the teacher. Krisnamacharya for example, taught his few students completely different styles (the ones we know now as ashtanga, iyengar, viniyoga, etc.) And if we look at the asanas, they varied. Why? Let's not focus on the sequence or style of the practice, but rather the look of pose itself. As an example, Tadasana (mountain pose) has a different shape in Iyengar hatha and in ashtanga yoga. Why would this be? Since K Pattabi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and T.K.V. Desikachar were each taught by Krishnamacharya.

The logical explanation is that each of his student’s body required a different variation of the asana (and also a different style of practice.) So how do we know that our practice is best suited for our body? Let's look closer at Tadasana and Warrior 2.

For Tadasana (Samastiti), Iyengar and viniyoga say heels and toes together; ashtanga says big toes together with heels slightly apart. What's the reason for the difference? There are a couple of ways to tell what is correct for our body, and what gives the most stability and the least stress to the joints involved. One is anatomical; we can measure our body to determine this. For example, here is mine with heels together.


Notice both feet are turned out, the right slightly more. Which one is correct for your body?

The foot anatomy itself may require a modification - see the foot pictures in my previous blog. You will experience the modification if you need it.

Even “simple” poses we do every day may be causing stress. In Warrior 2 we also want to be aware of the back foot alignment. Notice the difference in the back feet.


The left lady, toes straight across; the right, toes slightly back. Both are correct. Which is best for your body (especially the knee)?

In the beautiful practice of ashtanga, we may stress joints because we push to get to the full expression of the pose before we are ready, thinking we are “doing it right.” On Sunday, September 23rd, I will be leading a Skill Building Foundation in Alignment Workshop, where we will break down Figure 4 and its lotus variations, ensuring that we keep the knee and ankle joints safe in these poses.


Even if we can't do them fully, we can practice with modifications as the pose expresses itself as far as we wish to carry it. If we can do them fully, we want to ensure that our expression does no harm to the body over time.

We will learn:

  • Anatomy of the foot, ankle, and knee - how they move (the knee is not just a hinge)
  • Why flexing the foot doesn't protect the knee, and stresses it more in certain poses
  • A better protection strategy for the knee joint, and safe weight-bearing
  • How foot placement in an asana can stress the knee and the body above
  • How to strengthen the ankle and knee joints for a safer practice
  • A foundation-setting technique using energy flow

We will:

  • Explore about 25 standing and seated asanas from hatha, vinyasa, and ashtanga to discover how each one fits best with our specific body.
  • Practice to automatically set the correct foundation whether we attend a slower hatha class, or an invigorating vinyasa.
  • Learn modifications to keep our bodies safe over time as we build the pose to the fullest expression that we desire.
  • Discuss and learn how to interpret directional cues and how they apply to our uniqueness.

This is an all-levels workshop event, open to all yogis. Join us September 23, 2018, at 2:00 pm at Northwest.


Leave a Comment

Email Help Tip
Characters Remaining: 5000