“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Refining Your Forward Bends With The TFL


"God is in the Details"--Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Attention to detail integrates mindfulness meditation into your Hatha yoga practice, enhancing the benefits. This blog post  illustrates a detailed tip for engaging the TFL in the forward bend Upavista konasana, its biomechanical basis and the benefits of utilizing this important muscle in your forward bends.

Here’s the anatomy…

The tensor fascia lata originates from the front part of the iliac crest and outer surface of the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS). It inserts onto the iliotibial tract (IT band), which continues on to the front outside of the tibia (lower leg bone). It is considered a polyarticular muscle because it crosses both the hip and knee joint. Thus, contracting the TFL can influence both the hips and the knees, as we illustrate below.

Here’s the cue…

I always begin by taking the general shape of the pose. In the case of Upavista konasana this means taking the legs apart (abduction) and extending the knees. Then I actively engage the quadriceps to straighten the knees. This initiates reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings, preparing them for the stretch. Next, I bring in the tensor fascia lata (TFL). The cue for this is to press the heels into the mat and then attempt to drag them apart (abduction). This causes the TFL to contract, which you can feel by placing your hands on the sides of the hips as shown below. Pressing the sides of the feet with your hands augments this cue (see figures 1 and 2 below--click on image to enlarge).

Figure 1 illustrates pressing the heels down and attempting to drag the feet apart. Figure 2 shows how you can feel the TFL contract. Figure 3 is an intermediate version of the pose.

Attempting to drag the feet apart with the heels fixed in place on the mat uses the primary action of the TFL (hip abduction) as a cue to access its secondary actions—knee extension, and hip flexion and internal rotation. Knee extension synergizes the quadriceps and helps to align and protect the knees. Hip internal rotation counteracts the thighs rolling outward as a result of the pull from stretching the gluteus maximus. The TFL synergizes the psoas for hip flexion and contributes to femoral-pelvic and lumbar-pelvic rhythm. You can learn more about the concept of joint rhythm and its effect on the spine from our blog post “Preventative Strategies for Lower Back Strains in Yoga”. Figure 4 illustrates these actions in Uppavishta konasana.

Figure 4 illustrates the action of the TFL on tilting the pelvis forward, internally rotating the thighs and synergizing the quadriceps to extend the knees.

Once you get the hang of this cue in seated angle pose, try it in other forward bends like Janu sirsasana (figure 5). This illustrates the concept of “portability” for these cues. For many more similar tips, check out the Yoga Mat Companion book series. Learn about the individual muscles in the context of yoga from The Key Muscles and Key Poses of Yoga (you can use the "page through" feature to see the entire books).

Figure 5 illustrates the action of the TFL on tilting the pelvis forward, internally rotating the thighs and synergizing the quadriceps to extend the knees in Janu sirsasana.


If you would like to learn more about combining modern Western science with the ancient art of yoga, please join us for a week in paradise at Blue Spirit Costa Rica for our second annual intensive on anatomy, biomechanics and therapeutics for Hatha yoga. I will be teaching state of the art techniques on these subjects, including much new material relating to therapeutic applications of yoga--all with great 3-D illustrations, excellent food, beautiful facilities and expertly taught daily Hatha yoga classes. We encourage you to register soon, as this workshop is nearly full.

Thanks for stopping by the Daily Bandha. Stay tuned for our next post when I'll go over a common condition affecting the shoulder joint and its yoga solution.  Also, we greatly appreciate when you share us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


Namaste'

Ray and Chris

19 comments:

  1. how do you pronounce tensor fascia lata? can someone offer the phonetic spelling please?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Rana,

      It is pronounced: ten-soar fasheea lot-eh

      Best~Ray

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    2. Thanks for the reply to Rana's post.

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    3. You're welcome Shawna! Ray

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    4. I felt a little silly asking; thank you so much for answering!
      Rana (sounds like Donna :)

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    5. No problem, Rana--stop by anytime~Ray

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  2. Ray,thanks for the most wonderful article & explanations. Blessings, Veena

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    Replies
    1. Thankyou Veena,

      I very much appreciate your support!

      Namaste'~Ray

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  3. thank you very much for your explanations.. I've try to practice this pose and it's very hard to do.. after read your explanation and try I found that my body can do more.. :)

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    Replies
    1. Good to see your comment, Asama. Keep up the good work! All the Best~Ray

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  4. Thanks a lot for a very inspiring text! In my yoga practice I tend to overstretch my knees, something I try to work with in all asanas. I know that working with my feet in a way helps. This work with taking my feet more apart helps me with this work even more, I tested and I am amazed! Very helpful, thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Anna,

      Delighted that you enjoyed and are applying the technique from this post! Thanks for commenting and all the best~Ray

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  5. Thanks for your work. I'll be trying this tomorrow !

    > Stay tuned for our next post when I'll go over a common condition affecting the shoulder joint and its yoga solution.
    I can't wait as I've just been recovering from a tendinitis of the rotator cuff (supraspinatus). It was very interesting to learn when this muscle is activated (like the 90° on the side, just before joining the hands over my head). I'm now consciously applying the cues I found in your books.

    Thanks,
    Yann

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    Replies
    1. Hi Yann,

      Let me know how it goes. I'll be posting the shoulder blog shortly, may have another one in between. Thanks for stopping by! Best~Ray

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  6. This site is an excellent find, thank you for all you do. Your subscribe button gave me an error message just now.

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    1. Hello Andrea,

      Great to hear that you enjoy our site! Subscribe button seems to be working now, pls give it another go. Best~Ray

      Delete
  7. Hello Ray,

    Does the TFL really cross the knee....or you mean "via" the IT band? Thanks for the great articles.

    Wanjira

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    1. Hi Wanjira,

      The TFL crosses the knee via the IT band and acts an extensor when the knee is between 0-30 degrees of flexion and a synergist of flexion at beyond 30 degrees of flexion (according to some sources). The IT band attaches to Gerdy's tubercle at the front outer aspect of the tibia.

      Thanks for your compliment on our work.

      Best~Ray

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  8. I've been teaching anatomy for quite a few years, but I have to say, I've not seen tools as good as your illustrations, pose viewer and videos! I know it's all intended for yogis, but I'm using them in my pre-nursing classes as well! Well done!!

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