Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 7 [Light on Yoga]

[Part 1 of this series, in which we pick apart an advanced sequence from “Light on Yoga”, can be found here.]

This time we are going to look at a sequence to help prepare the body and learn Mandalasana (Mandala Pose). This is a highly unusual and very challenging pose that requires mobility in the ribcage and shoulders coupled with a very strong proprioceptive sense of one’s body in space. Here’s how B. K. S. Iyengar describes it in “Light on Yoga”:

“Mandala means a wheel, a ring, circumference or orbit. Keeping the head and hands in Salamba Shirshasana 1 circle round the head clockwise and then anti-clockwise. The movements of your feet will then form a circle, mandala or orbit around your head which should remain stationary…

“…During the rotation, the trunk and abdomen are contracted on one side and stretched on the other side. This keeps the spine and the abdominal organs in trim and promotes health and longevity.”

—Iyengar, B. K. S., “Light on Yoga,” Schocken, 1979, pp. 381-385

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Feather Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Supta Virasana (Hero Pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclines Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose) drop-back
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) drop-Back

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly-Turning Pose)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• This refers to coming into and out of Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from Hand Stand. If you are unable to do this challenging transition, try the following:
• Come into Hand Stand at the wall several times, each time getting a bit further away from the wall and sliding one leg and then the other down the wall until you can get the feet to the ground in Urdhva Dhanurasana. Come out of the pose each time by walking the feet back up the wall swinging the legs back overhead into Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) or Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose).
• 3 to 4 repetitions.

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved head of the Knee Pose)

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose) preparation 1
• Place the arms and head down as if going into Shirshasana and straighten the legs.
• Walk the feet around in a circle as far as you can and hold the position for several breaths, getting used to the shape
• Repeat 2 or 3 times to both sides.

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose) preparation 2
• Come into Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana and walk the feet around in a circle as far as you can and hold the position for several breaths, getting used to the shape.
• Repeat 2 or 3 times to both sides.

Half Mandalasana (Mandala Pose) 1
• Come into the Shirshasana preparation and walk the feet as far around to the right as you can and attempt to turn the hips. Don’t worry if you don’t get very far. This is all about getting the nervous system used to this strange new position. If you slip out of the pose, set yourself up in the Head Stand preparation and try again. It is best not to be too serious in your approach to this pose. You will find yourself tumbling over quite a few times before you get it. Laugh a lot at the ludicrousness of what you’re doing. It really does help.
• Repeat several times to both sides.

Half Mandalasana (Mandala Pose) 2
• Go through the same process from Urdhva Dhanurasana. Eventually you will be able to put the pieces together into the complete pose.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Tips and Tricks

Mr. Iyengar has an interesting tip on performing the pose:

“When the legs come to the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions, raise the opposite shoulder slightly, and lifting the chest up and forwards, rotate the trunk…”

—Iyengr, B. K. S., “Light on Yoga,” Schocken, 1979, pp. 382.

Here are some videos of people doing Mandalasana. In the first, the drop-back from Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1) prepares the shoulders, ribcage and even the nervous system, making the pose a little easier to do. In the second (which is a little dark) the lightness and speed with which she performs the pose keeps the body from over-working:

In this beautiful dance piece, choreographed and performed by teacher and yoga model Theresa Elliot, the slow and steady movements build to a semi-circular variation of the pose. Observe the movement in the ribcage as she performs the preparatory moves. In the pose itself, at the crucial moment of the turn, observe how the ribs and pelvis turn in unison. Also observe how one hip dips under the other and the leg bends, rather than one hip flipping over the other:

This is a very daunting pose to approach, and it does require diligent practice to master. It is worth persevering with, however, as it can be an exhilarating pose to perform.

Next time we’ll look at a practice to explore and deepen the advanced baby back bends.

Related Posts:

Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga,” Round-Up

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