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Warrior three with hyperextended knee

Destabilizing Postures

yoga postures yoga practice Nov 24, 2022

Are you still making this mistake?

Warrior 3 can be a strong pose. Both as a challenging balance and to lift the body horizontally into a line or slight back bend.

We might feel the muscle engagement in the hamstring area of the lifted leg, most people might also notice the gluteal muscles working hard. Are we are really engaging the muscles of our legs then?
Yes! And, maybe not fully.  And maybe barely, except for those few screaming at you.

Your hamstrings clearly are leg muscles. See - you’re right.
But what about the rest of the lifted leg? Your butt muscles do have an effect on the leg, the outer leg specifically, but let’s not count them for now as a leg muscle group.
What else? Your quadriceps, the large muscle on the front of the thigh?
Those of you intentionally straightening the knee of the lifted leg are likely using the quads. Not bad that’s another muscle of the lifted leg side of your body.
Now, lets look at balance. Not the standing leg yet, however.
Your adductor muscles, the inner leg section of your thigh, have the potential to stabilize the pelvis. That might be a good idea, if the whole body, minus the standing leg, is currently supported horizontally off your hips and pelvis.

Now, no further dodging the red arrow in the picture. Hyper-extended knees, the weak link in so many standing balances.
Your standing leg might feel really active too in this posture. When you find a quick moment of balance, bring your attention to your standing leg. Where do the muscles feel very active. Are they actually actively engaged, or just straining? That may be easy to confuse in the midst of this posture.
Chances are, if you’re someone with hyper-extended knees, you feel the back of your knees and possibly the hamstrings. But they are less likely to be active than passively loaded / stretched.
How do I know?
Hamstrings are muscles that bend the knee. In hyper-extension the knees are at the opposite end of bent. More consistent activation of the hamstrings prevents hyper-extension of the knee and provides balancing engagement and support for the knee joint.
Just using the quadriceps / the front of thigh muscle might feel like you’re strongly using your leg, but it’s really a 30% effort compared to what you could do to stabilize your leg and posture.

Having a strongly engaged lifted leg and torso balanced on an insufficiently engaged (if at all) standing leg is a destabilizing posture. It will weaken your balance and structural support while create excess tension to compensate in the lifted part of your body.

Remember: Just using the quadriceps muscles to stabilize your knee leads to hyper-extension of that joint. As a result it’s likely the muscles on the back of the leg are doing less and the inside of the legs even less again.
When you practice warrior three aim to have a strong standing leg with muscles engaged from your foot to your hip on ALL sides of the leg.

What tools and tricks do you know and use to create a more supported knee and better stabilized standing balances?

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