Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The connection between the feet, the pelvis and the spine in backbends

Over the last week or so, I made a very interesting discovery while practicing dropbacks and standups. Quite simply, it's this: How evenly you distribute your weight in your feet during dropbacks directly impacts the quality of your backbend.

This is how I came upon this discovery. Over the last week or so, I found myself paying more attention to my feet during dropbacks. Why did I suddenly start paying attention to this part of my body during dropbacks? Well, no particular reason, really. It's just that, after you have been dropping back and standing up for a while (in my case, it's been more than two years since the first time I dropped back and came back up successfully), you stop treating dropping back and standing up as this thing in the practice to be gotten over with quickly. And once you stop seeing it as something to be gotten over with quickly, you also start to stay in and with the pose more, and pay more attention to the sensations created by the placement of various parts of the body.  And if you are walking your hands towards your feet in backbends (like I am), you can't help looking at the feet :-)

And so it was that sometime last week, I noticed that over the last two years, I have had a tendency to place more weight on the inside rather than on the outside of the feet (I think the technical term for this is "supination", although I'm not 100 percent certain about this, and I'm feeling too lazy to google it right now :-)). I think I do this because I try too hard to rotate the thighs inward, so much so that I supinate the feet in order to bring the thighs closer together.

Anyway, the moment I noticed this tendency last week, I asked myself, "Hmm.... is this right? Shouldn't the weight be evenly distributed on the feet in all postures, including backbends?" The moment I pondered this question, I decided to try shifting more of the weight onto the outside of the feet, in order to balance out the weight placement. The moment I did this, the quality of the backbend changed: Somehow, I could feel more of the backbend in my front body rather than in my back.

This morning, I made another discovery. As I walked my hands towards my feet in dropbacks, I reminded myself again to try to shift more of the weight to the outside of the feet without sacrificing the inner rotation of the thighs. I discovered that once I did that, it also became easier for me to lift my vertebrae out of and away from the pelvis, creating more space in the spine. This gave the entire backbend a lighter, more expansive feeling, not to mention protecting the vertebrae from compression.

One of my teachers, Eddie Modestini, always emphasized that the feet are the foundation of the asanas, and that if you take care of the feet, everything takes care of itself. I always thought that applied mainly to standing asanas. But I guess it applies to backbends too. Then again, if you think about it, dropbacks and standups are also standing asanas. Pretty cool, don't you think? ;-)     


  1. This is great, Nobel! I'll have to try the weight distribution thing.

    As to the supination question, it's the other way around. Supination is placing more weight on the outside of the foot, pronation is placing more weight on the inside of the foot. The things one learns from swordfighting. It's easier to remember in the hands: rotate your wrist so that your palm faces up and could hold a bowl of soup: soup-ination. It's the same outwards rolling in the ankle that produces supination, although I wouldn't recommend trying to hold a bowl of soup with your foot. :)

    1. Thanks for the supination/pronation clarification, Ellie. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I've heard your soup-ination explanation somewhere before; I just haven't been thinking about it much :-)

      You are into swordfighting? Interesting :-)