The Anatomy of Directing: Exercises for the Knee Directions


This post is a continuation of  last week’s post on the leg spirals and knee directions. The exercises are simple but detailed, and we plan to give you one additional post next week with some more, as again, this one got way too long.

Part of the Da Vinci Project, the Anatomy of Directing series attempts to clarify anatomical points for the purposes of functional mechanics and directing.  If you’re new to directing, check out this post, or the book, Neurodynamics: The Art of Mindfulness in Action. We plan to publish an article with the entirety of these posts and additional exercises and illustrations in the future. If you enjoyed what we’ve done so far, let us know via email or on Facebook.

Part 9: Exercises for Directing The Knees

Here are a few exercises to help you get started thinking about leg and knee directions. We have not included the basic semi-supine exercise, but it is one of the most constructive positions for directing one’s knees, so don’t forget to try that one too.

EXERCISE 1. Vertical Monkey (from “The Use of the Hands” manual)
vertical monkeys 3

Step 1. In standing position, take time to get plenty of length between your hips and head, coming to your full stature without raising your chest. Give your head direction: forward and up.

Step 2. See to it that you are not tightening in the buttocks, thighs, behind your knees, or in your ankles.

Step 3. Allow your knees to release forward so that you go into “vertical” monkey. Do not go slowly by controlling the knees; rather, let the knees go all at once, without losing your head direction.

Step 4. If your tendency is to drop into the legs and to bring the hips forward with you as you release your knees, you’ll notice you are weighted forward, without an even balance on your heels. If this is the case, then come back slightly onto your heels and allow your hips to release away from your head again.

Step 5. Once you are in a good, balanced position, think of allowing your head to go forward and up once again and, without tucking your pelvis, release in your gluteal muscles to allow your pelvis to drop away from your head so that your back as a whole can lengthen. You should now feel the length of your back from the base of your head right down to your sacrum and buttocks. This allows the muscles of the lower back to release slightly and the back as a whole to gain more length and elasticity.

Step 6. When you have become comfortable with this procedure, try it again and now add your knee directions.

A. Think of your knees releasing away from your hips and ask for length along your thighs. Be sure not to hold in your ankles.

B. Let go in your calf muscles so that your knees release away from your heels and your heels go onto the floor.


EXERCISE 2. From Vertical Monkey into Regular Monkey

monkey with directions

note the arrow wrapping from the waist, around the buttocks, into the knees.

After experimenting with vertical monkey, think about how you might incline forward at the hips to go into a regular monkey position while maintaining freedom and direction in your knees.

Step 1. Follow the exercise above until you are in a balanced vertical monkey and give your directions, including the knees.

Step 2. Release your neck to allow your head to nod forward at the AO joint. Ask for length from head to hips, allowing your back to lengthen.

Step 3. Hinge at your hips in order to incline forward with your head leading, while keeping length in your back.

Step 4. Direct your pelvis, which functions as part of your back, away from your head.

Step 5. Think of releasing from the back of the waist, around the buttocks, along the hamstrings and into the back of the knees so that the knees come out of the back. Don’t allow your pelvis to tuck.


Explore these two exercises with a particular focus on the knees, and here’s one final exercise that focuses on the leg spirals in sitting.