Now that I have your attention, let’s explore the concept of the size of your torso and the length of your limbs in navigating yoga postures. You may struggle in binds like extended side angle pose or hip openers like double pigeon. You may feel strong in dolphin pose but hesitant to kick up into a forearm balance. You may not understand why, after decades of diligent stretching, your hamstrings are so tight.
Have you ever considered that the underlying obstacle to your bind, hip opener, or arm balance is related to the unique architecture of your beautiful body? The length of your humerus (from your elbow to shoulder) can dictate success in a forearm balance. If you have a short humerus, you may not be able to clear your head from the mat.
What about long legs and a short torso? Or short arms? If you have shorter arms, attempting to interlace your hands in bound side angle pose creates a hunched and collapsed torso rather than a twist and heart opening. Using a strap might allow the bind with the desired opening. Based on the length of your arms, you may never be able to achieve the bind without the use of a prop no matter how determined you are to successfully persevere.
Yogis with long arms might effortlessly bind behind their back and grasp the opposite wrist with ease. Shorter arms make it more difficult to balance in toe stand if your fingers don’t touch the floor as you try to find your sweet spot of balance before floating your hands to heart center. If you have shorter arms, you may not be able to place the palms of the hands on the floor in low lunge postures. These examples reflect anatomical differences and have nothing to do with motivation, talent, or “yoginess.”
Students with longer torsos and shorter legs have an advantage in boat pose as well as floating into handstand from downward facing dog. These postures aren’t inaccessible to long-legged students, but they might be more challenging.
The bony structure of the hip also affects our yoga practice. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to continue vigorous hip stretching because we don’t look like Instagram images. The shapes of the bones in the pelvis, like the shallowness or depth of the acetabulum (hip joint) and the length and angle of the head of the femur, are factors that won’t change no matter how many hip-opening postures we do. The challenge with the pelvis is that, unlike the length of arms, we can’t see what the bony structure looks like. For this reason, it’s easy to assume we need a lot more stretching which ultimately may not be appropriate for our bodies.
So aside from the pose, why does length matter? It has to do with why you’re stepping on your mat in the first place. In a social media world with perfect yoga postures streaming through our feeds, it’s easy to compare ourselves and our practices to others and their practices.
Each one of us has our own unique and beautiful practice. The power of yoga lies in its simplicity. Yoga is connecting to our center through movement and stillness, using the breath as a vehicle for grounding. Just as there is no perfect song or perfect food, there is no perfect yoga or perfect pose. Yoga is a reflection of our own anatomy, our own individuality, and our own journey.
In light and love,