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“Flex your foot to protect your knee in pigeon pose” – have you ever heard this yoga alignment instruction?
Personally, I’ve heard this cue in yoga classes countless times! In fact, I’ve heard it so often that I actually *internalized* the cue to the point where I’d parrot it pretty mindlessly whenever I was teaching pigeon pose, as well.
It was just one of those things you were always supposed to say whenever your class was in pigeon. Right?? 🤷♀️
But then… guess what happened!
Back in the days of yoga DVDs (do you remember those days, too? 😛), I was recording the audio for one of the practices in my Strong Vinyasa Flow DVD.
Sean Riehl, the director of the DVD, was there with me, overseeing the audio recording. And Sean happens to be an anatomy expert who founded a successful massage instruction video company called Real Bodywork.
We got to the point in the yoga class when I was instructing pigeon pose, and I said, “Make sure to flex your foot to protect your knee.”
And Sean – who hadn’t interrupted me at any point in the whole yoga class narration so far – stopped me and said, “That doesn’t make sense. Flexing the foot doesn’t protect the knee – no muscles that flex the foot cross the knee joint.”
And I was so surprised! I’m not sure I’d been challenged about any of the yoga cues I had ever given in my whole yoga teaching career up until that point.
All of those common yoga cues we teach (especially the safety ones) were just taken for granted as accurate, important, and part of the way we teach and practice yoga, right??
When Sean questioned my pigeon cue that day, I definitely honored his request and I kept that cue out of my narration for the DVD.
But I was honestly still a little confused. 🤔
I didn’t really understand his suggestion that flexing the foot doesn’t protect the knee. I knew that Sean was an anatomy expert, but… literally every yoga teacher gave this pigeon cue. Could they really all be wrong?
It turns out that our biases can be stubborn, and cognitive dissonance is uncomfortable! Heh heh. It took a little while longer, but eventually – after learning more about anatomy, movement, muscles, joints, injuries, and pain science – I realized Sean was absolutely correct in his assessment of that yoga cue I was attached to.
It’s 2023 now, and since those yoga DVD days, I’ve created an abundance of content that examines old-school yoga alignment rules and offers updated, movement science-based perspectives on them.
And one of my favorites is this YouTube video I created a little while back that questions the “flex your foot to protect your knee” pigeon cue. I’ve come a long way, haven’t I? 😉
Check out the video for the full explanation for why this widespread yoga cue is biomechanical B.S.!