We wake up every morning, step out of bed, and our legs carry us throughout our day without any thought. And they do it just fine. We walk around, we stand still, and we bend our knees to get in and out of chairs and up and down stairs. But do we want just fine, or do we want great?
Through our yoga practice, we can learn to have great legs. Strong muscles work seamlessly together to support healthy joints and promote a natural range of motion. We are providing the spine with a powerful foundation. How?
Start with a simple exercise: standing up straight. We all stand every day, but how often do we truly stand up straight, with power and conviction?
- Bring your feet together, toes and heels touching
- Contract your thigh muscles onto the bone, pulling the middle and upper thighs back
- Buttocks (glutes and hip muscles) contract and push forward
- Abdomen contracts backward (suck your stomach in!)
- Chest up, chin level
When you do this correctly, your weight is evenly distributed across the feet. Most people standing on two feet lean forward, causing uneven strain on the legs and hips.
You should feel that you are rising out of your feet, your legs getting longer (extending), your spine getting straighter, and overall feeling taller, prouder, and more powerful.
Common postural issues such as an excessive forward or backward pelvic tilt will typically and automatically be corrected over time, reducing tension on the lower spine and restoring healthy function to the ankles, knees, and hip joints.
A simple way to remember this technique while waiting in the Starbucks queue is: Feet down, Thighs Back, Buttocks Forward, Abdomen Back, Chest Up.
This basic foundation applies whether standing on two legs or only one. The same is true when lying down with straight legs, though here you need to think about pushing your feet away (heel and ball), extending your legs since the ground is not providing you with resistance.
Your legs are the foundation for your spine
Keeping your legs “charged” in the manner described here creates space and stability in the joints, lubricating them with nutrient-rich synovial fluids that promote healthy joints.
Learning to use our legs more intentionally in our practice provides a healthy foundation for our bodies throughout our daily lives.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As part of the Bikram Yoga practice, we often ask you to concentrate on one point – this is the key to the kingdom of your health.
When you concentrate on one point, with great determination, to engage all the muscles from your feet to your abdominals, you are filling and charging your legs, and your self, with willpower. It goes beyond the physical and has the power to transform your life!
New workshop: Legs – a stable foundation for your life
Saturday, March 18, 12:30–2:30 pm – $69
Led by Matt Newman with Mari Mashimo and Sarah Newman, this two-hour hands-on, interactive posture workshop is for beginners and experienced practitioners alike – everyone can do it. Bring your questions!
Learn how legs interact with the hips and spine to play a fundamental role in a healthy posture. Experiment with a range of standing, seated, and prone postures and exercises to help awaken the intelligence within our legs and body.