Standing poses, surprisingly some of the most difficult, provide a firm base for other exercises and the body
Bharat Thakur, Special to Unwind
Published: 00:00 March 6, 2010
Image Credit: Oliver Clarke, Gulf News
Some of yoga's most challenging poses aren't the inversions or the arm balances but the standing poses. They are not only the most challenging but also the base of all the other postures. I would call them the "core" yogasanas. To master all the other postures of yoga, you need to have a strong lower body, especially strong legs.
Unlike weightlifting, which isolates particular muscle groups, the standing postures of yoga strengthen the leg as a unit. These poses also strengthen the muscles that protect the knee and the ankle joints. By teaching us to properly plant our feet and align our knees and hips, standing poses improve our posture and coordination in everyday activities. These postures facilitate proper alignment and strengthens the smaller, less-used and often-weak muscles in our arches, lower legs and the thighs. This reduces the tendency of relying only on the larger leg muscles.
Another neglected muscle in the leg is the hamstring. When we walk, run, jog or play, we tend to use the quadriceps. The hamstrings remain underused and, as a result, becomes stiffer with time. Stiff hamstrings are one of the main causes of a weak lower back. This also indicates that weak legs contribute to a weak spine and various other problems involving the back. Getting into a forward fold or arching backwards needs a strong pair of legs. Many beginners grumble about backaches after a couple of yoga sessions. The reason is strain on and the overuse of the back. What needs to be learnt and used as a core principal is activating and making use of our leg muscles while getting into any posture or even walking, for that matter. Walking draws your attention to the smaller muscles of your legs. Also try taking your attention off your knees, which eventually bears the brunt of the exertion.
Let us look at how the legs play a vital role in other postures. For instance, a classic posture such as navkasana (boat posture), used for the abdominal muscles, cannot be held without bringing our attention to our leg muscles. One needs to make use of the leg muscle by contracting them, focusing on smaller areas and activating various muscles in our legs. Besides working as a catalyst for improving other postures, the standing postures help in weight loss and work wonders in getting those toned legs we all dream of having.