These poses illustrate the balancing of opposites in yoga. When you flex forward in Prasarita Padottanasana, the pelvis will naturally drift back a bit to counterbalance the weight of the trunk so that you don’t fall over. This draws the bones of the legs away from perpendicular to the floor. Although the leg bones are obviously angled in the front view, you can benefit from aligning them to be perpendicular to the floor in the side view. Press the fleshy part of the big toes into the mat and feel how this automatically aligns the pelvis over the ankles.
Ideally, in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) you want to align the leg bones so that their long axes are perpendicular to the floor. This has several beneficial effects. First, bones have tensile strength that is greater than steel; “stacking” them so that gravity is directed down through the long axis allows you to use this passive bone strength rather than active muscular force to maintain the pose. Second, aligning the bones in this manner more optimally spreads the joint reaction forces evenly across the cartilage of the knee. If you are tilting the leg bones back, these forces are more concentrated at the front of the joint. Press the fleshy part of the big toe into your mat to draw the pelvis forward and align the hip over the ankle.
Note how engaging the big toe flexors has the added benefit of strengthening the longitudinal arch of the foot (right). That’s because in addition to being toe flexors, these muscles are also dynamic stabilizers of the arch.
Be sure to review the physics, anatomy, and biomechanics of why this works. Click here to see the details on our blog, The Daily Bandha.
Ray and Chris