Written by Kaye Tribe
Have you ever thought, will I ever sit comfortably in Hero’s pose? And if I keep on stretching, will this change?
The answer is, it Depends. Kaye Tribe explores why.
This is a very common question from many Yoga practitioners.
Why is it so challenging?
The position of the bony articulations of the hip joint in the human body can vary considerable from one individual to the next. The thigh bone (or femur) also undergoes considerable changes from birth to becoming an adult. These changes will affect the ability of each individual to move their leg forward and backwards (flexion and hyper-extension), out to the side (abduction) and to turn the leg inwards and outwards (medial and lateral rotation).
The infant skeleton is made up of mostly cartilage. It is immature bone and it has not yet been calcified. This makes the bone fairly flexible.
Babies are packed inside the uterus tightly, particularly in the last few weeks before birth. Most foetuses are in a crossed-leg position in the uterus. This position affects the how our legs will look when we are born.
Throughout childhood, the thigh bone and lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) will continue to change and move towards what is considered ‘normal’ for the adult.
When we are infants, the angle between the shaft and the neck of the thigh bone is approximately 140 degrees (image on the left) and is described as the angle of inclination. This angle reduces as we learn to walk to approximately 125 degrees which is considered normal in the adult body. An angle of 5 degrees either side of that measurement is also considered to be within a healthy range – 120 degrees to 130 degrees. An angle outside of that range is named either coxa valga (larger than normal) or coxa vara (smaller than normal).
There is another angle that indicates the amount of rotation that occurs in the thigh bone and this angle changes from about 30 degrees in an infant to approximately 15 degrees in the adult body. Most research suggests that excessive rotation of the thigh may be due to the position of the child in the uterus and the resulting imbalance in tension of the muscles that control movements of the hip.
The result of an increased rotation on the thigh bone is an increased ability to medially rotate the thigh compared with the ability to laterally rotate the thigh and it is referred to as excessive anteversion. This photo illustrates the chosen seated position of a young child with excessive anteversion of the thigh bone.
An adult body with excessive anteversion will find Hero’s Pose an easy pose to hold due to the internal rotation of the thigh bone in that pose. This adult will also experience an easy cross-legged pose as not-so-easy due to the inability to laterally rotate the hip comfortably.
Alternatives to offer
So, your ability to sit comfortably in any pose may be due to the shape of your thigh bone and the position of your hip socket rather than stiff or chronically shortened muscles.
You could replace Hero’s Pose with Easy Cross-legged pose, or Half Lotus pose or any seated pose that is held for longer than a few minutes.