Anatomy Question #1

David Keil Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Your Questions 3 Comments

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Applying the opposing muscle principle

Since I’ve been here at Purple Valley I’ve been asked a couple of questions regarding anatomy as a result of some little pain that has popped up for someone.

I never advertise that I am here to answer your anatomy questions… unless of course I’m doing an anatomy or yoga workshop. Dare I say, I even hide a little bit when I’m not. This is countered with my desire to help anyone (if I can) that asks.

So, a girl approached me with some pain in the back of her knee, at least that’s how she described it. When probed further, she described the pain as approximately 2 to 3 inches above the actual joint. In my mind this pretty much ruled out meniscus or ligamentous pain. Upon palpation of the tender area, it turned out to be the tendon of the most lateral hamstring muscle called biceps femoris.

She said that the pain only occurred in ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana (bound half lotus) and in baddha padmasana (bound full lotus). I thought for a moment and considered other information such as where she was, how much walking and practicing she was doing etc. My working hypothesis at that point was that she simply had a slightly inflamed tendon, perhaps due to a little extra tightness.

For the moment I assumed it wasn’t overstretched as she didn’t feel any pain while it was in a lengthened position, i.e. forward bends. The pain only occurred when the muscle was actually in its most shortened position (at least at the knee end) as in lotus where the knee is in full flexion.

A suggestion came to me rather quickly, although I needed a bit more of a test to gather information. I asked her to go into bound half lotus and then asked her if she felt the pain/sensation. She did. I then asked her if she could try to straighten her knee against the resistance of her hand holding her foot in place. She did. Guess what? The pain/sensation was gone when she did this.

The case of the inflamed tendon was closed.

If you’re having trouble with your knees, you should definitely check out our online lotus workshop. It’s filled with helpful information and ways of working with your lotus to avoid pain and problems in the future.

Oh… are you curious why this technique changed her pain sensations? You mean you want to know more?

If I was working off of the hypothesis that the muscle was sore as a result of shortness, this basically means that it was remaining in a state of contraction. So, I took advantage of the neuromuscular principle that says when you contract a muscle against a resistance it can’t overcome, its opposite muscle will relax. In this case, contraction of the quadriceps (while in padmasana) against a resistance that it couldn’t overcome (her hand) resulted in the hamstring relaxing and a cease of the pain.

The anatomy stuff does come in handy.



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About David Keil

This website is simply about delivering yoga anatomy to the yoga community in a simple and understandable way. It has always been about you, the reader, understanding the complexity and diversity of our own humanness as well as our anatomy.

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Comments 3

  1. Dear David,

    Thank you for this informative blog.

    I am experiencing the same challenge in the ardha baddha padma paschimattanasana and in baddha padmasana pose. My pain comes from the side of my calves and usually it will take me about 5 minutes to ‘straighten’ my knees when I wake up in the early morning. After reading the article and trying your suggestion, it works! I feel so great and I really want to thank you for this.

    In fact, I have just placed an order for your 2 dvds and hope to learn more on anatomy. This is the best Christmas present I have ever received!

    Please continue with your excellent work and sharing!

    Have a blissful and joyous Christmas!

    With gratitude,

    1. Hi Shirly,

      So glad that this very first Anatomy Question/Post was related to you! I’ll do my best to keep putting these little questions up on the blog and hopefully help others as well.

      Perhaps I’ll see you in Singapore in early May.

      David Keil

  2. God bless you, David! So valuable. It would be good to make a video instruction on this one, especially for us beginners. We should save these tips as a treasure. Thank you.

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