Proper Hands and Feet for Yoga
Proper placement of the hands and feet is very important to prevent injury. If hands aren’t properly aligned, we can have wrist and shoulder problems. If feet aren’t aligned, knees and hips become vulnerable. By learning these basic alignment principles, we can protect ourselves in our asana practices.
For hands, begin by placing your hands flat on your mat. Imagine there is a line between your peace fingers (pointer and middle). That line should bisect the wrist. Another way to check the placement is to see if the crease in your wrist is parallel to the short edge of your mat. Make sure all of your fingers are evenly spread out, including your thumb. Next, firmly press down through the mound of the index finger. It has a natural tendency to pop up, which can weaken and tweak the shoulders. To help alleviate the weight in the wrists, press down through the finger pads. Using this alignment in Downdog, Chaturanga and any pose on hands and knees will greatly protect your wrists and shoulders!
Feet alignment is also very important, especially in standing poses. They are your foundation, your roots. The first place to start is to see how far apart they are. You want your feet about inner hip distance apart. This changes if you have tighter or looser hamstrings, but inner hip distance works for most. Similar to the hands, you want your second toe to bisect the ankle. Following this alignment ensures that your feet are parallel and not turning in or out, neither of which are good for the knees. Next, you want to find the balance between all of the points of your foot. The term, “four corners of your feet” is often heard in yoga classes. The four corners are: the mound of the big toe, inner edge of the heel, mound of the pinky toe, and outer edge of the heel. Lifting your toes and shifting your weight back and forth and side to side will help you find your optimal balance. People with tighter hamstrings tend to put more weight in the heel, and thusly, more flexible people tend to put more weight in the balls of their feet. After you find your balance, you can place your toes back down and enjoy the steadiness of your roots. Following these guidelines will improve your Tadasana and Forward Fold. The same principles apply in almost any pose where your feet are on the ground. Generally, just the angle of one foot will change depending on the pose, like Warrior II and Triangle.