We pull Horse Pose into almost every workout because it effectively shapes the lower body and supports a tall, upright spine. Similar to a traditional second position in ballet, it’s modified to be functional, accessible, and easy on the joints. Read on to learn more about the pose, including how to do it just right so you reap all the benefits.
Horse pose targets the stabilizing muscles in the pelvis, inner thighs, side seat (especially the deep hip rotators), hamstrings, quadriceps, shins, calves, and the arches of our feet. By strengthening these muscles, we increase our pelvic stability and a reinforce a neutral spine. This leads to training the body tall and improving posture over the long term. Even the muscles in the arches of our feet are important. As our foundation, our feet are essential to proper alignment for the entire body.
How To Set It Up
Step out wider than your hips with your feet turned out to 2 and 10 o’clock. Bend your knees and slide your back 6 inches down an imaginary wall. Your knees are over your ankles and in line with your second toes.
Common Alignment Mistakes
Check your alignment right now! Get into Horse Pose in profile position in front of a mirror, and then look for these common misalignments.
1. Are you sticking your seat out? (Think of your pelvis like a bowl of water. Is the water spilling out in front of you?). To align your body properly, put your hands on your hips and draw the base of your spine towards the floor.
2. Is your pelvis tucked under? (Think of your pelvis like a bowl of water again. When you’re tucked under, the water is spilling down the back.) To correct this, place your hands on your hips and slightly release your seat back.
3. Are your knees collapsing inward so that you can’t see your big toes? Narrow your stance. Bring your feet in until you can see your big toe on the inside of your knee.
Modifications for Common Injuries
While Horse pose can be challenging for people with limited hip rotation, knee, SI joint, and lower-back pain, it can also help alleviate all of those issues if done mindfully with less pressure and intensity. The two best modifications for this posture are to work higher (instead of thighs parallel to the floor), and to walk feet in for a narrower stance. The main goal is to find external rotation in your hips without compromising a long, neutral spine or level and square pelvis. It’s also always important to work above the pain and to stay in your challenge zone, which is different for everyone.
To take Horse Pose deeper and amp it up, focus on connecting to your body and nailing proper alignment.
1. Push your feet into the floor evenly and draw your heels in towards each other. That will engage your leg muscles more.
2. Work lower to tax your muscles to their utmost (while still listening to your body!).
3. Lift your arms up overhead. Think about reaching energetically through your fingertips while keeping your shoulders, neck, and jaw relaxed and your spine long. Lifting your arms up not only taxes your back and abdominal muscles more, but it adds an extra balance challenge.
Questions about Horse Pose? Ask us in the comments below, or talk to your instructors at your local studio. Whether you practice barre3 online, via our mobile app, or in a studio class, we’re here to help you deepen your practice so that you keep breaking plateaus and reaching your fitness goals.