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Michelle Ryan

Keeping Your Two Hips in One Line

By News

Planes of the Body Hip Alignment Bikram YogaWhen we teach this wonderful healing yoga, you will often hear us tell you to put “two hips in one line.” You may wonder what that means.

Two hips in one line translates to alignment on a variety of planes. For example, in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, we encourage you to turn your hips, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times to get two hips in one line.

That one line is the saggital plane, assuming, of course, your hips are already on the transverse and coronal planes.

Hold on, let me back up a bit. There are three planes that we refer to (but never mention directly) when we teach yoga—the saggital, coronal and transverse planes.

Alignment on these planes, to the best of your ability, is what will help you to stretch muscles and develop strength equally and appropriately.

The coronal plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from right to left. So as you bend to the right in half moon pose, you are working to stay in the coronal plane.

Another way to look at it is to think of your body between two plates of glass—as you come into half moon, no part of your body is pushing against the glass plates, you are gliding smoothly between them. That’s staying in the coronal plane.

Coronal Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga

Taka, on the left, is in the coronal plane; Laura, on the right, is not.

Two hips in one line, in this example, mean that your hips should be square to the mirror to stay on the coronal plane. Look at the photo of Taka and Laura—see how Laura’s hips are twisted out of alignment?

From the side you can see how her two hips are not in one line. You cannot see Taka’s right hip at all; she is in coronal alignment.

The saggital plane is your body’s ability to maintain alignment from the center line of your body. In your mind, take those two plates of glass and shift them to your right and left side.

In tree pose, for example, when you pick up your right foot, make sure that you don’t shift your hips to the left, thus leaning into one plate of glass.

Shifting weight is easy to do, and it helps you to counterbalance, but it brings your body out of the saggital plane.

Just like in the half moon example above, the goal is to avoid pushing or leaning into the glass. Keep two hips in one line by continually stretching upward, engaging your core abdominal muscles and contracting the quads.

Saggital Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga

Left photo shows hips correctly in the saggital plane; right side demonstrates hips out of alignment.

In the example on the right, you can see how my hips are not in one line. In fact my whole body is tilted to the left side—see how my left leg crosses into the white line?

The goal is to create alignment closer to the image on the left so there is a mirror image on either side of the center line of the body.

The transverse plane is your body’s ability to stay level. The plate of glass just moved to the floor.

In spine twist, for example, it’s important to keep your both hips on the floor to maintain integrity in the transverse plane.

When one hip comes off the floor, your transverse plane is compromised and that compromise extends up through the entire spinal column!

When we refer to the transverse plane, we are usually using the term “level” to keep you in alignment.

Transverse Plane Body Hip Alignment Bikram Yoga Hot Yoga

Taka’s hips (left) are in the transverse plane; Laura’s (right) are not.

In the photo example here, Laura on the right has her right hip off the transverse plane—and look how it affects her whole alignment structure.

She’s also out of alignment from the saggital plane—see how her spine is crooked? Because Taka’s hips are both on the floor, the rest of her body is better aligned.

Who would have thought that two hips in one line could have such important meaning?

As you practice for the next few weeks, focus on your alignment in the coronal, saggital and transverse planes.

Work to get your hips square and level during the setup, the full expression of the pose and the dismount. And two hips in one line will bring a whole new awareness to your practice!

Questions about two hips in one line? Questions about alignment? Come to the Yoga Lab on Saturdays! Alignment is only one thing we’ll discuss! We’ll see you there!

How to Lock the Knee in Proper Alignment

By News
Proper Locked Knee Alignment Bikram Yoga

Engage your abs in the balancing series poses. Your core strength helps with both balance and alignment.

When people first start to practice and hear teachers tell yogis to lock their knee, a variety of thoughts pop into their head:

“No way! My coach told me to always keep the knees bent!”

“No way! My drill sergeant (or choral teacher or minister) told me I’d pass out if I locked my knees!”

“No way! That will hurt!”


Every one of these answers is a legitimate response. The key to locking your knee is knowing HOW to lock your knees and how to NOT lock your knees. There’s a big difference.

Locking the Knee Proper Alignment Bikram Yoga

A properly locked knee maintains the natural alignment of the leg (right).

When you hyperextend your knee, the weight of your body is on the heel of the foot and the knee joint is pushed beyond the natural alignment of the leg (see image to the left).

Obviously, the leg on the left is positioned beyond where it should be; the leg on the right is in better alignment.

Let’s further examine each of the poses in the balancing series to discuss the best way to achieve proper knee alignment in each. (Hint: There’s one pose in the balancing series that’s easier than the rest to maintain a locked knee!)

Lock Knee Alignment Bikram Yoga

A hyperextended knee puts more weight on the heel and takes the knee out of proper alignment.

Compare these two Standing Bow images:

Initially the image to the right looks like a fairly impressive standing bow. But upon closer inspection, you can see that this yogi’s standing leg is hyperextendedshe is out of alignment.

Over time, this leads to over stretching, tearing of ligaments and tendons, and grinding of bone. In fact, this person, after years of holding the pose like this, suffered a torn meniscus in one of her knees!

Take a look at the image on the bottom right. Can you see the difference?

Can you see how this yogi’s standing leg is strong and her quadriceps and inner thigh are engaged?

Can you see how the weight on her foot is equally distributed and she is not leaning too far back into the heel or to the outside of the foot? This is the locked knee you are striving for!

It’s easiest to hyperextend the knee in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow because it takes strength to create the counterbalance necessary to stay in alignment.

Proper Lock Knee Alignment Standing Bow Bikram Yoga

A properly locked knee in Standing Bow depends on even weight distribution in the foot and a strong kick up.

In Standing Head to Knee, be mindful of the weight on your heel. When you grab your foot and start the pose, think UP and immediately contract your quads and engage your inner thighs to keep your leg in alignment. This will take practice.

Then when you kick out, be mindful of the weight on your heel and in the back of your knee. If you feel your weight dropping back, kick forward more! The action of kicking forward in combination with a strong standing leg will keep you in alignment.

And keep your stomach sucked in! See how the abdominal muscles are engaged in the photo at the top of the page? Your core strength will help with balance and alignment!

In Standing Bow, again it’s all about the strength of the standing leg, but it’s also about kicking and stretchingthey are equal and simultaneous, 50-50ever hear that before?

By really reaching forward with the extending arm and kicking with your lifted leg, you will keep the weight in your standing leg more evenly distributed. It all works together!

The Balancing Stick posture is the easiest of the three balancing poses to keep your leg in alignmentwhy? Because your standing leg is like the fulcrum of a teeter totterthe weight is, more or less, more equally distributed across the plane of your body.

But that doesn’t mean you can relax in this posturekeep your leg engaged and keep stretching forward and backwardstretch, stretch stretch!

None of this is easy. It takes a lot of practice and just when it seems you’ve got it down, your leg will relax, you’ll lose your hard-earned balance, or something will happen and you’ll fall out. Not to worry, just keep trying.

And if you want to see what your balancing legs look likelet our teachers knowthey are happy to take some time before or after class get your photo while you’re in the postures!

Remember the key is to Lock the Knee AND Stay in Alignment!

Half Tortoise: Did You Know?

By News
Half Tortoise Pose Benefits Bikram Yoga

Touching your forehead to the floor is an important step in Half Tortoise pose.

There’s a reason we tell you to touch your forehead to your knee, or to the floor!

The pineal gland, also known as “the third eye,” is a small endocrine gland in the brain. It produces melatonin, which affects both sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.

As we age, the pineal starts to develop calcium deposits, which isn’t necessarily a good thing!

Touching your forehead to your knee or the floor can help to stimulate the pineal gland.

Now I’m not sure that doing Half Tortoise is the equivalent of eight hours of sleep, but it just might help balance your sleep/wake cycles and stimulate the release of melatonin!

So do your yoga—touch your forehead!