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Dr. Karina Smith

Why you need to have different options for Virasana/Saddle pose

woman in reclined virasana yoga pose

Are your hips naturally externally rotated or internally rotated?

Do you know?

Maybe you have never been asked that before.

There is a very good chance you fall into one of those two camps.

In Yin Yoga we call Virasana "Saddle pose".

Exact same shape, just different name, and with options on how you approach it depending on whether you are more externally or internally rotated.

What does it mean to have naturally externally or internally rotated hips?

It means that, the natural shape, depth and orientation of your hip sockets, in the way they articulate (connect) with the shape, angle and orientation of the heads of your femur bones (thigh bones) create a certain arrangement that will either allow for you to rotate your thigh bones inward or outward to a larger degree.

Were you aware that people have different bone shapes?

It's ok if you didn't know that. How would you? Unless you are a radiographer who sees lots of x-ray pictures of peoples hips and thigh bones.

The good news is, that you can test to see what works better for your body, and it will be really obvious!

Here is the test:

Sit on the floor in a kneeling position, hips in contact with your heels.

Lift up your hips enough to move your feet apart, and slowly let your hips sit down on the floor between your feet.

If your body starts screaming before you get there, or you feel like there is no way you could stay there, then you are not a member of the internally rotated camp. You most likely belong to the externally rotated camp.

If you can sit down with ease, and you could hang out there for a while, hours even, then you are an official member of the internally rotated camp.

Some people belong to both camps, but this is not so common.

If this position is a clear NO, to your body, the place you will most likely feel the no, will be coming from the medial joint line of your knees, and possibly also a hard stuck feeling in the hip joints themselves.

Check out the video below for in depth guidance on getting comfortable in your Saddle pose, and how to set up an internally or externally rotated position:

So by now you might be wondering why?

Why am I internally rotated?

Or why am I externally rotated?

What is it about my bone structure that creates this in my body?

There are a few factors that play not your unique variation.

It also needs to be stressed that no amount or lack of movement created this bone shape for you, it is your natural state!

The first aspect of bone variation in the story of your hip range of motion is the angle and shape of the head of your thigh bone.

In these two images of left thigh bones, can you see how different the angles are at which the head of the bone orients itself compared to the angle of the thigh bone itself?

If you assume for a moment that the two pelvises connected to these bones are identical (in reality they are not), then the bone on the far right will have a much bigger degree of abduction range of motion than the bone on the left.

The second aspect of variation to consider here is how much space you have between where the thigh bone ends and the head of the thigh bone begins (we call this the neck of the femur).

The specimen on the left of this picture has quite a lot of "neck", whereas the specimen on the right has virtually none.

This could mean that the specimen on the right might run into compression in particular ranges of motion much earlier than the specimen on the left.

And the third main variation to consider is the actual hip sockets themselves.

Hip sockets can be deep, shallow, facing down, facing up, facing sideways. There is so many variations here that will impact a persons ability to externally or internally rotate their femur bone inside the socket.

Also, your right hip socket is not necessarily identical to your left hip socket, which is probably why most people have a story in their body about one hip being their "good" hip and the other being their "bad" hip.

There is a good chance they are basing that on the degree of movement they have in one hip versus the other.

So now do you have a better idea of which camp you fall into when it come to your natural hip rotation?

Hopefully the next time you are practicing Virasana or Saddle pose you will feel a lot more confident to set yourself up in the posture that best supports your bones, while still helping you to experience the intention of the shape, which is the open the tissue of the quads and hip flexors, whilst mildly extending the spine.

* All bone pictures have come from the bone gallery gifted to the yoga community by the amazing Paul and Suzee Grilley.

Love Karina x


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