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Where should the feet point in Deer Pose or Virasana?

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Joined: 23 Sep 2006
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Location: Vancouver

PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2019 12:58 am    Post subject: Where should the feet point in Deer Pose or Virasana? Reply with quote

I was recently asked the following question:
    Bernie I have a question for you if you don’t mind about Deer Pose. I am struggling at getting my head around the alignment of the leg that folds back. It has been taught to me with not much attention to alignment. Say it is the Right shin that is across the front and the left leg that is folded with the foot facing back. I would think as the top of the leg (thigh is internally rotating) that to keep the knee safe that the toes of the left foot need to be pointing back with the ankle straight as in a pose like Virasana and that if the ankle is flexed and the toes pointing out to the side that this then causes external rotation in the lower leg. Does it matter? And what alignment do you teach? Thank you in advance, L.

Hi L.

You are correct that the back leg in Deer Pose (and both legs in Saddle when we sit between the feet … aka Supta Virasana) is internally rotating. So, where should the feet point in order to protect the knee? It depends! Many people have enough internally rotation at the hip so that all the rotation is coming from there and the knee is actually in neutral while the foot points out to the side. Indeed, for these students, it could be harmful to try to point the foot straight back, in line with the shin, because that would be forcing a 90 degree internal rotation at the ankle or at the knee. However, for many other students who can not internally rotate very much at the hip, then the rotation required to point the foot out to the side will have to come from the knee and/or ankle. Now, this may or may not be a problem even for these students. It again depends! When the knee is fully flexed, the collateral ligaments are somewhat lax and may allow 90 degrees of external rotation (but only when the knee is fully bent! As the leg straightens, this freedom is lost.) I know some students who are very lax in these ligaments and it causes them no problem at all to twist their knees, when fully flexed. However, there are many student for whom pointing the foot out to the side in Deer or Saddle is definitely not a good idea. They won’t like to do it because it will feel very unnatural and painful.

So, should the foot point out to the side? I don’t know! It depends…what are YOU feeling. If there is discomfort, pain or even the feeling that this just isn’t right, don’t do it! However, don’t insist than no one else should do it, just because it doesn’t work for you. Forget the aesthetics of how this looks: what are you feeling? Everybody has their own unique biology and biography.

This is described in much more detail in my book, Your Body, Your Yoga…see page 192, and also in my article “ Virasana: is it Good or Bad? ”. I hope this helps clear things up for you.

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