Anatomy: Back-bending, Do Feet Need to Be Parallel?

Feet Parallel?

Ever been in a yoga class where the teacher cues parallel feet in wheel pose? Or even encourages students to squeeze a block between the feet or thighs to ensure the toes don’t turn out? 

So this is something that I was guilty of teaching for AGES. It’s what I learned in my first teacher training. However, after expanding my anatomy knowledge I’ve come to realize we might need to let go of this cue.
Objections to toes turned out – compression? 

Some claim that toes turned out will “compress” the sacroiliac joints (the joints that connect your pelvis to your sacrum). The main muscle said to cause this “compression” is glute max, but it doesn’t cross the sacrum!

Additionally, the SIJ is a closed, packed, fibrous joint and the glutes provide stability for this area! And hip external rotation might be more helpful in getting the glutes to fire! (I think this is why a lot of “beginner’s” unconsciously start with the feet turned out, because the body knows the glutes need to be online!) **
 Similar statements have been made about the glutes compressing the lumbar spine or “reducing the amount of space” around the lumbar spine. Again, none of the glutes cross the lumbar spine, so how would this be occurring? And in fact, with glute max on you bring your pelvis into more of a posterior tilt which gives the lumbar spine more space! Heck yes!***remember that when engaging the glutes (and any muscle in a yoga practice) we don’t want to be clenching with all of our might. A good way to judge is whether you can still breath comfortably and imagine that you’re pushing the hips up against an imagined weight
(like a fluffy chonky cat sitting on the front of your hips 😸)
It bares repeating: We’re all Built Different!

Remember there’s a massive amount of human variability in our bodies. People have different foot, knee and hip structures which means that not everyone’s wheel pose will feel comfortable with the feet parallel.
 Ultimately, like all of our postures, it comes down to individual preference. Feet parallel may feel best for some while feet turned out may feel better for others. So next time you’re setting up for wheel, give yourself permission to have a little play! Bring the feet wider, closer, further, or even toes out! You will (probably) not spontaneously combust¹.

¹ Andrea Shelton Yoga is not liable for individuals who spontaneously combust while backbending.
Copyright © 2022 andrea shelton yoga, All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close