Yoga Rag Round-Up: Yoga Journal

I found four articles of note to tell you about in the February 2008 issue of Yoga Journal. And because, of course, I am a man of opinions, I have a few comments to make about them.

• BASICS: WITH A TWIST, by Richard Rosen (pp.50-56):

Mr. Rosen gives us a breakdown of the seated twist Marichyasana 3. He has some great things to say about the pelvis (keep it neutral) and the lower abdomen (keep it soft), with a nice little exercise using Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) with a block under the pelvis to explore the sacrum. There's also a great prone trunk lengthening exercise that he describes with a blanket roll under the hip joints. However, he tells us:

"'ll press your sacrum the left side of the sacrum in to twist left and the left side of the sacrum in to twist right."

Ouch! Especially if you have sacroiliac joint issues (as do I). I imagine his idea is to have the twist evolve evenly across the entire length of the spine, but putting pressure on the sacrum like that is not a good idea in my opinion. Better to keep the sacrum and pelvis aligned with each other and squared off with the legs, allowing the twist to happen higher up the spine in the thoracic vertebrae, where they have room to turn.

And if only Yoga Journal would actually feature a picture of a real beginner doing the pose, rather than the advanced person they have presenting it, seated on a very thin blanket and binding. But this is a constant problem with the magazine.

• THE SECRET TO BETTER ARM BALANCES, by Jason Crandell (pp.91-97):

I really liked this article. The model's poses are beautiful and well executed by Iyengar standards. Mr Crandell's text includes a nice balance of precise instruction and imagery.

• MASTER CLASS: URDHVA PRASARITA EKAPADASANA, by Desirée Rumbaugh (pp.103-111)

This is without a doubt an article for the advanced student. Both the sequence and the instructions are not for the beginner, and really maybe only for the more advanced intermediate practitioner of Anusara Yoga. I think this is great. There needs needs to be more high-level writing about asana out there. This sequence to lead you into the standing spilt of Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (Single Leg Extended Up Pose) is taught from the perspective of the Anusara Yoga Universal Principles of Alignment, which I'm not qualified to comment on, but Ms. Rumbaugh's article is very interesting to read and her poses are masterful.

There was one thing that really leapt out at me as being dubious, however. She presents a forward-bending variation of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose) as a hip-opener, which is certainly very standard. (Although, I believe, not approved by Mr. Iyengar who feels it is a distortion of the pose. It's always hard to know what to do with these proclamations from the Mothership, as he has been known to change his mind.) My disagreement comes with this suggestion that Ms. Rumbaugh makes:

"Keep your front foot flexed and your hip lifted up off the floor...To build ankle strength, keep your front foot flexed, with it's outer edge strongly rooted in the earth and the outer anklebone lifted. If your front ankle collapses, the pose will be less effective as a hip opener, and you will risk knee pain and possible injury."

To my mind, flexing the foot and lifting the ankle will cause the muscles of the outer hip and thigh to grip. It will certainly increase the sensation in the outer hip, but if the muscles are engaged, they cannot possibly stretch, and the range of motion of the femur will be limited. Knee pain in this pose is likely to come from the femur not turning out enough to bring the top part of the knee joint into alignment with the bottom part. Gripping the outer hip muscles will do nothing to help that. Better to support the thigh with a prop (block, bolster, blanket) so as not to sink too deeply into it, relax the leg by allowing the sole of the foot to turn up towards the ceiling and the outer ankle to drop. Focus instead on turning the top of the femur out in the socket to bring proper alignment back to the knee joint.

• ANATOMY: SHOULDER SAVER by Julie Gudmestad (pp. 113-115)

Ms. Gudmestad addresses some foundational principals of how to use Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) to keep the rotator cuffs healthy and strong. Essential reading.

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