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Yoga Practitioner Beware: This Common Teaching Cue Can Erode the Stability of Your Sacroiliac Joint!
If you are a Yoga teacher or practitioner hoping for healthy joints that last a lifetime, you might want to head straight for the door when you hear that ubiquitous Yoga teaching cue to, “Square the hips” in wide-stance standing Yoga postures like Triangle and Warrior I & II.
In the video below, renowned Yoga teacher Donna Farhi explains why squaring the hips in wide-stance standing poses such as Triangle and Warrior II is an anatomical impossibility, and if forced, can result in dysfunction and pain of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ).
Squaring the hips in these poses causes us to put uneven force on our left and right sides, Donna notes, and this in turn can destabilize the joint and cause pain throughout the lower limb.
In her travels over the world, sacroiliac joint problems is one of the most common issues she sees in Yoga students and teachers.
To understand why this is such a common problem, Donna explains, it’s important to look at the structure of the pelvis and SIJ. Your pelvis is composed of two ilium bones that attach in the back of the body to the triangular sacral bone and in the front at the pubic symphysis. It’s the hub of motor movement and meant to be stable. The SI joints allow for just a tiny degree of movement to support easeful walking.
By squaring the hips in wide-stance poses, we essentially pull the joint apart by attempting to have one leg in a turned outwards position and the other in a turned inwards position without adjusting the whole pelvis. What we should be doing instead, says Donna is to treat this structure as one unit.
For that to happen without risk to the hip, knee or SI joint, the pelvis must organize itself around the legs. That is, the back leg side will move forward to accommodate the external rotation of the front leg. Your hips won’t be “square,” but your SI joint will stay healthy and balanced!
Video Demonstration of Safe Yoga Cuing
If you already suffer from SI joint discomfort, making this simple shift in your practice should help offer relief pretty quickly.
To see how this can work for you, Donna demonstrates a simple way to set yourself up on Warrior II that will allow you to feel the optimal position of the pelvis. As she explains it, the front leg can speak to the back leg through the communicating bridge of the pelvis. And it works with any standing pose.
Even Yoga practitioners who haven’t experienced pain should pay attention to the risk posed by constantly trying to square the hips, especially in flow sequences where we move from one asymmetrical posture to another. Before you know it, you’ll be a member of what Donna calls The SI Joint club, one club you’d never want to join!
What if you are that well-meaning yoga teacher who’s been invoking the “hips square to the front” cue? Donna says to forgive yourself for the misunderstanding, and immediately begin to incorporate your new understanding into your teaching.