Reader Joyce wrote in:
When yoga teachers say “thighs back” or “inner thighs back” as you say in this post, it seems to me that there are two possible interpretations of that instruction: 1) bringing the thigh back in space, in the sagittal plane, so the thighs are positioned more over the heels, or, 2) a slight inward rotation of the upper inner thighs–which could also be seen as ‘backwards’. Or do they mean both??
The answer is a very resounding both. As much as I go on about untucking the pelvis, the main goal of that shift is to move the thigh bones backwards more in line with the lumbar spine.
When I studied Anusara yoga with the much maligned John Friend one of his spins on alignment was the inner spiral which was to be balanced by an outer spiral. The description of the inner spiral went thus (If I memorized my training manual correctly): the inner thighs move towards each other, then towards the back plane of the body and then broaden apart. This is still the essence of what I teach so I hope I got it right. That instruction correctly applied places the legs, the hips sockets and lower spine in line with each other. That is good business.
Who knows why most people don’t want to go there? But the fact is an overwhelming number of people tuck their pelvis forcing the thighs forward of the spine. This happens in yoga as well as life and has a lasting effect on the upper back, neck and head.
The goal is to untuck the pelvis and relax the gluteal muscles and piriformis so the thighs can fall comfortably under the hips. When the pelvis moves into line energy in the pelvic floor and core can be accessed to lengthen the spine.
When you hear a yoga teacher, or if you are lucky enough to walk around with a yoga teacher in your head, keep thinking to yourself about 1)taking the thighs back in line with the spine, and 2) as they move back rotate the inner upper thighs back and apart to access the energy that will allow the spine to lengthen.