Why Do Students Turn The Palms Open In Tadasana?

tadasanaThere are a good number of students who show up in my classes and turn their palms open to face the front of the room when we set up in tadasana. I have never understood this concept even though I have a feeling that I was there at its birth. This type of alignment wasn’t part of the practice when I started doing yoga and though I am not an Iyengar Yoga teacher (they have their own things that drive me crazy), I refer to Light On Yoga as the bible of the practice. BKS Iyengar’s tadasana, the first picture in the book, shows fingers pointed straight down with the palms facing the outer thighs.

When I stand up straight in life, waiting for a train for example, my palms don’t turn open, they face my outer thigh like in Iyengar’s tadasana. This just feels right to me.

I used to study with John Friend, ex of Anusara Yoga, and I remember when he started teaching this way. It was at a workshop out west I believe, and in his inimitable way, he combined the idea of turning the palms open with the image of saying “how wonderful”. And it seems like after that palms started turning open all over the place.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. There are poses where the forearm rotate in this fashion (trikonasana, vasistasana) but I don’t understand the need to do it in Tadasana. So why do people turn the palms open in tadasana? I am guessing, but I imagine it is about opening the chest through an external rotation of the upper arm.

Assuming that I am right in my conjecture, why not turn the palms back in once the upper arm has opened. I often teach an arm exercise in standing poses where I have students take the arms out to the sides with the palms facing down like they will be in the final pose. I then have them rotate the palms up to face the ceiling which rolls the bicep up as well. Finally, working to keep the bicep up, I have them roll the palms down through a rotation of the radius and ulna, the bones of the forearm.

If this is similar to why students open their palms in tadasana, then they should then turn to palms back in to balance the action. Feel free to share your thoughts.

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