Fitness Farces

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I love taking fitness and yoga classes. As a physical therapist, I draw so much inspiration from yoga that I incorporate into my patients’ exercise programs. That is why it peeves me so much to hear these common fitness myths being perpetuated in different classes time and time again.  I want to debunk some of these common myths.

The “Never Knee with Tree” Myth

I’ve been practicing yoga for quite a while now (15 years!). I’ve taken classes all over the world. In my days as a yogi, something I’ve heard on numerous occasions is the instruction to never place my foot on the inside of my knee during a tree pose. I’ve always been instructed to place my foot on my calf or inner thigh. “Never knee with tree” a teacher recently proclaimed in a class. I suppose the idea behind this myth is that somehow you’ll cause damage to you knee joint if you place your foot there.  You won’t! Your knee has multiple ligaments that keep it stable, along with your hip and thigh musculature, so it won’t cause damage to hold your foot there.  When performing tree pose, you should be pushing back into your foot with your standing leg just as much as you are pushing into your leg with your foot. This helps to keep the knee joint stable by engaging your hip muscles. If you have pain when placing your foot to the inside of your knee, then don’t do the pose that way. Use your calf or inner thigh instead. Just like any yoga pose, let pain be your guide. But if putting your foot on your knee during tree pose in painless, you can continue to practice that way without fear of causing future damage.

These Tree Pose Variations are all safe.

The “Don’t Lunge or Squat with Your Knee Going Past Your Toes” Myth

I want everyone to do a test. Find your nearest staircase and walk down the stairs. Climb back to the top. Now try climbing down again, but this time don’t let your knee pass over your toes. Can you do it? Probably not. It’s next to impossible. We can’t climb down stairs without letting our knee go past our ankle. Are we causing ourselves joint damage? No! Is there more stress on the kneecap when we do this? Yes! So if you have pain in your knees with letting your knees pass your toes in a squat or lunge, back off. Otherwise, if the motion is pain free, consider including it from time to time so when you do this in real life, like we do when we descend stairs. This will allow you to train to have the strength and stability to do it without hurting yourself.

These pictures demonstrate common safe modification for lunges and squats. Some show the “knees over toes” modification. Others don’t. All forms are okay as long as they are pain free.

The “Spot Training” Myth

Oh how I wish this was true. If I could only do enough sit ups, then I could burn the fat on my stomach and have abs. Unfortunately, this is not how fat loss happens. When you lose weight through working out, you lose it everywhere where you have fat cells. Conversely, you gain it that way too. Don’t let this deter you from abdominal exercises. They are still great for building the strength to support your spine.