Does your Yoga Tree Suck ? Yoga tree for runners.

Look at the 2 photos above. Click on the lady in the blue shorts so you can see her full photo and then toggle back and forth between the 2 photos. Both show a lady doing the Yoga Tree pose.  There are alot of ways to do this post.  Which one is right ? Which one is best ? Is one wrong ? How can a runner, and all of us for that matter, take advantage of the Tree pose ?

This blog post is all about PROPERLY improving strength and PROPER motor programs of the stance phase leg so that the opposite pendulum swing leg works through the simplest freely swinging swing phase.  A correct swing phase will result from good stance phase biomechanics on the stance side.  So what you do on well on one side will render safe mechanics on that side and show good results on the opposite side or it if what you do it poor mechanics, it risks both sides for functional pathology and injury.

In the 2 photos we see two different levels of the two pelvi. One waist line is horizontal and the other is on an angle.  Do you know which one is more correct ? Draw a vertical line in your mind from the foot up through the body on both ladies.  Can you see that the lady in the black leggings has far more body mass lateral to the line ? Look at the dramatic angle of attack of the leg into the ground (draw a mental line from the hip joint to the foot on both, the line is much more vertical in the lady with the blue shorts.) The lady on the left in the blue shorts shows good gluteus medius use. The stance phase leg is more vertical, the pelvis is elevated on the swing leg (the bent knee side in this case) and with that same vertical line reference there is little more than the lateral hip outside/lateral to the line. Shorts-lady shows opposite pelvis elevation acquired by good stance leg gluteus medius and abdominal core use.  This stance limb is in the concentric-isometric gluteus medius phase.  The lady on the right has a lower pelvis and a laterally shifted pelvis.  The body mass is over the hip joint (for you detailed fact “sticklers”, yes she could be moving the non-stance phase pelvis down through the hip frontal plane via an eccentric exercise if she is doing a dynamic tree pose).  None the less, this lady’s static posture requires very little gluteus medius use because she has most of her body mass over her hip joint axis.  The gluteus medius under needle EMG would show very little activity. This is an easier Tree pose and this client is not getting all she can out of the pose.  It would ask more of her gluteus medius and core as well as more lower limb and foot strength, skill and balance to do what the lady on the left is doing.  Try it yourself. Are you getting as much as you should out of your tree ? IS your balance really as good as you think it is if you are doing the pose right ?  The lady on the left will have to work harder but will get far more out of the pose.

The lady on the left in the blue shorts also has her hands above her body, extending actively reaching for the ceiling. This will lift the rib cage from the pelvis and make it more difficult for the abominals to stabilize the core. This is a level-up challenge. Plus the arms when not out to the sides cannot act as balance stabilizers.  The lady in the shorts is getting far more out of her pose and is working for that smile. 

As a runner this is a GREAT exercise. We have our patients do this one for homework to teach, learn and master the use of the gluteus medius and core musculature.  Afterall, you need these muscles to be optimal during each stance phase when you are running.  Each landing is nothing more than a rushed single leg stance, and you can do it right and stay injury free or you can do it wrong and risk some down time.

* key point= make sure you keep your pelvis in the frontal plane, many folks will let the pelvis spin (the non-stance leg) can drift backwards. Thus you are spinning your pelvis on the stance leg. Most unknowing people will let it spin until they find the point where they have good strength and balance.  What is the point in doing that !!! ????  Do the pose where it is challenging, not where it is easy ! 

* Now for your test: Based on what we have talked about here today, watch this very short video of 2 gentlemen doing the pose and see if you can see which of the 2 needs more gluteus medius work, or at least which of the 2 needs to work on abducting the hip better ?  One of the 2 is more stable in the frontal plane, and does not drift laterally.  Ready ? Go ! VIDEO LINK

Cross train to stay injury free.

Cross train smarter, not harder or longer.  Get the most out of what you do. 

Shawn and Ivo.  Just 2 trees in a very large forest.  And using the optimal view of the forest that we have had for so very long (40+ years of clinical practice) to help other trees to grow up straight and strong.