Today's yoga alignment tip comes from our online store manager Candice, who also happens to be a certified yoga teacher :)
Hi guys! Who among us doesn't have tight-feeling quads? Those guys are used so frequently: in our lunges and warriors of our yoga practice, on our awesome bike rides, and through imbalanced gait and tension patterns. Phew - I need a rest just thinking about it!
Now this may sound obvious in theory, but when we go to stretch the quads, we want to make sure we are actually stretching (ie: lengthening) the QUADS. But all too often, we bypass this stretch by moving another part of our body - giving the illusion that we are stretching the quads, when really, we're doing something else entirely.
But why? Why does this happen? Well, because those quads feel so tight, and we therefore experience limited flexibility in this region, many of us end up moving at the HIPS and/or SPINE to compensate.
In this pic, we can see how I am attempting to stretch my quads by arching my low back excessively. My quads didn't actually have to lengthen at all in this move. But I did compress my lumbar spine, which isn't the point of stretching the quads at all. Also notice how my hips have tilted forward (which is called "anterior pelvic tilt"), and my knee has traveled back in space to achieve this shape.
In this second example, my friend and fellow Drishti gal / yoga teacher Meredith is doing the same thing, but on the floor. She pulls her heel in close, allowing her low back to arch. Her pubic symphysis is no longer in contact with the mat because her pelvis is in an anterior tilt - this is the same alignment mistake I'm making in my standing pose.
So how? How do I stretch my quads without moving at my spine, or my hips? Here's your tip!
In standing poses, actively work a "posterior tilt" of the pelvis by drawing your tailbone down, and lifting your belly up. Most likely you'll feel a more intense stretch when you try this, and you may not have very much range of motion at all! One indication you're doing it "right" is that your knees will be more or less flush with one another. Notice how my knees line up here.
In lying down poses, just make sure your pubic symphysis (aka "pubic bone") stays connected to the floor. Your heel won't come as close in towards your hip, and that's just fine! Your goal is to stretch your quads, not be on the cover of Yoga Journal. It's a little harder to see in this example, but notice how now Meredith has created some nice length in her low back, and her heel is a bit farther away from her glute in this version.
That's it! Try incorporating this tip into your basic quad stretches, as well as any yoga poses that incorporate a quadricep stretch: Natarajasana, King Arthur, Dhanurasana, and more. :)