Fresh Take Friday: Stepping Wide

Happy Friday, everyone. Today we’re taking a fresh look at what happens when you step your feet wide when preparing for Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2) and similar poses. This builds on the work we did this past Monday on hip abduction in yoga poses.

This movement is a great illustration of a principle that transformed my postural yoga practice:

If you move well as you transition into a pose, you don’t need to fix anything once you’re there.

Now, this isn’t at all how I learned to practice or teach. That was all about fixing “bad” alignment: squaring the hips, tucking the tailbone, lengthening the side ribs, pulling the chest forward – the list goes on and on. I think that’s a pretty common approach in the yoga world, and you’ve probably encountered it if you’ve gone to classes.


Why not fix poses?

There are a few reasons why I prefer not to focus on fixing poses in myself or other people these days.

  1. There’s no such thing as an ideal pose.
    • Truly. Context matters, and in your postural yoga practice you are the context in which poses arise. There is no pose that exists separate from the body doing it. Every person’s pose will look different (even from day to day in the same body) because every body is different. Stop trying to fit your body into shapes that don’t serve you.
  2. The pose is not the goal.
    • The goal of a yoga practice is not to make pretty geometric shapes with the body. Yoga is about studying the self, and really connecting with the truth of who we are. The pose is one vehicle, if you choose to use it in that way. A yoga pose is not an achievement.
  3. If things are looking or feeling “off” in the pose, it’s usually because we went too far when we came in.
    • When we go further than our body is able to do, we rely on compensatory movement patterns such as “borrowing” movement from the spine to make the leg move farther in space. When we compensate in our movements, we create tension (and sometimes discomfort). Attempting to add a correction onto a body that’s already moved too far just layers tension on tension and may increase our risk of injury.
  4. Going beyond where we have stability, control, and ease doesn’t build our capacity effectively.
    • Forcing yourself to go as far as you can stand isn’t the way. Whether we want to get stronger, or have more range of motion, or do particular poses or movements more effectively, or feel more embodied and connected to our Selves, or breathe better, or feel more ease and peace of mind – none of these goals are achieved by moving to a place of strain and struggle in our physical practice (or our non-physical practice – see if it’s true.) Working in a place whether there is a core of ease and spaciousness and breath and control builds our capacity to do more.

Stepping the Feet Wide

When we step or jump the feet wide, we sometimes use cues like “place your feet about 4 feet apart” or “place your feet below your wrists”. These cues don’t account for different proportions or differing mobility. Instead of relying on an external measurement, see if you can notice what’s happening in your body as you take the legs into abduction to take the feet wide.

What are you looking for when you’re observing this movement? In the video, I’ll give some ideas what we might focus on as we’re setting up for a pose like Virabhadrasana 2, Trikonasana, Prasarita Padottanasana, or any other wide-legged pose, and how you can find the movement that works for you.

Want to know more? Click here to find out ways you can work with me, or send me a message about your goals and we can have a conversation about the best ways to meet them.

The information, instruction, and advice contained in this video and post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.

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