The other night I was teaching my friend his first Yoga class and it was challenging on both sides. For me because I was assessing his ability level and at the same time trying to make it interesting and enjoyable and also trying to describe things to someone who doesn't have that much body awareness. Meaning that he is not used to following instructions based on how to move his body...kind of the way dancers or martial artists have great body awareness. They can watch something done and just mimic it right away. Or without having to look listen to directions and move accordingly. Comes with practice obviously. Well, I kept saying "square off your hips" and finally he was all "UHM what do you mean?" And I explained it meant to try to keep his hips in line. He thought almost every instruction was hilarious bc when I say to "square off your hips" that doesn't mean you have to actually have your hips completely square or inline, as much as it means to TRY to do it. Or when I said to him "twist open your chest towards the ceiling" it didn't mean his chest was actually going to be facing the ceiling, but just trying to do it!
Anyways it was funny but it got me thinking about the whole concept of squaring off the hips. which brings me to my yoga mat diagram. I want to use this diagram to mostly break down a lot of the standing lunge poses, such as warrior 1 and 2, extended side angle, parsvakonasana, parsvatonasanas.
OK first we will start with easy peasy -Tadasana. When you stand at the front of your mat, your toes should be in line with that first line there. I would draw that line about 1 inch from the top of your mat. Now draw a straight line vertically down the center disecting the mat evenly. Right foot stays on the right side and left foot stays on the left side. The second horizontal line is different for everyone. Its basically our plank like. Come into a perfect plank and then draw a line in front of your toes, and push back into a downward facing dog. Same line for both poses.
So going back to the whole squaring of the hips. When in warrior 1 you square your hips towards the front. Many times the alignment of the feet is, front foot straight forward at the center of the mat, facing 12 o'clock. The arch of the back foot is aligned in the center with the hell of the front foot. NOW, in that position, can you square your hips? I think thats pretty hard actually! And might kind of twerk your back knee. Think about revolved triangle or pyramid pose -parsvottonasana. If you're feet are in the ideal warrior positions...this too be difficult to do without twerking the knee and also balance wise. So here I suggest squaring off the hips and as a general rule...keep the right foot on the right side and the left foot on the left side. Now turn the back foot forward slightly and the hips can naturally square off.
Now to break down the downward dog/plank line on the diagram. When you are in warrior 1 your back foot is just in front of the line...still keeping right foot on right side, and left foot on left side. Front foot is always big toe in line with the line at the top of the mat. Same goes for pyramid pose.
Now you can bring your back leg behind the line when you go into warrior 2, here because you're squaring off to the side you can align heel to arch in the traditional way, or still keep right foot to right side, left foot to left side. Whatever feels good. The back foot also goes behind the line in extended side angle pose and lizard pose.
Of course there are so many different variations and ways of practicing yoga, but I really like using the lines on the mat. It gives me a place to be on my mat so when I am in down dog, my finger tips are always lined up, 1 inch from the top of the mat as well as my front foot in standing lunge poses. Secondly, the back line allowed me to measure my progression in how wide my stance got the more I practiced, until it is where it is today, which I think it will stay there but its a good marker for progress. And lastly, the idea of keeping left on left side and right on right side just gives me a good concept of constantly thinking about how square my hips or shoulders are in certain poses when they need to eb square.