Basic Practice: Legs, Lower Back and Core

In our last practice, we dealt with the front of the body, here we are going to focus
buttocks
on the back of the body. In particular, we need to think about the buttocks as we work towards some baby backbends.

Gluteus maximus, the largest, most superficial muscle of the buttock area, has two effects on the thighs and back when contracted. When the lower fibers contract, the thigh bones are turned out in the hip sockets and pulled away from each other, causing the back body to become narrowed. This action will be detrimental in poses where the hip joint is opening up, or extending, causing the lower back to crunch. Contraction of the upper fibers, however, is what makes the hip joint extend, so it is not helpful to have the buttocks completely soft.

When performing these poses, consider the following actions:
  • Strengthen and lengthen the inner thighs, the adductor muscles.
  • Soften the lower buttocks.
  • Widen and lengthen the upper buttocks down the length of the body, away from the head.
  • Lengthen the sides of the waist, drawing the abdomen up towards the head.
  • Soften and widen the back of the neck.


The Sequence:

Opening Vinyasa:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge With the back leg up
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with a foam block between the feet

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2) with a foam block between the feet

Sphinx Pose

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 15 [Light on Yoga]

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

In this, the final practice edited for time, and the final practice of the series, we will look at a sequence that focuses on the advanced baby backbends, poses such as Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose).

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 1)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 2 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 2)

Padangustha Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose)

Bhujangasana 2 (Cobra Pose 2)

Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Related Posts:

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


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Intermediate Practice: The Pillars of the Armpit

This practice marks the beginning of a multi-week series focusing on upper body strength and the use of the armpit. One can think of the armpit as being bounded by two pillars of strength, one coming from the front body via pectoralis major, one from the back via latissimus dorsi. These muscles both attach to the upper arm deep in the armpit at the same place on the humerus. When front and back are in balance, the sides of the body are then free to deepen front to back/back to front and become more supportive.

As you go through the poses, consider the following actions:
  • Soften and widen the deltoids, allowing them to wrap around the shoulder joints.
  • Soften and hollow out the armpits, allowing them to dome into the shoulder joint.
  • When the arms are weight-bearing, balance the weight evenly between each of the four armpit pillars: two on the left, two on the right. Some of us will sit more in the outer/back armpit, some of us will be more in the inner/front. Some people might even have one tendency in one shoulder and the opposite in the other.
  • Stretch evenly through both armpit pillars.

Very often the top of the chest/inner armpit area gets very bunched up and undifferentiated. To create more freedom in the chest and shoulder by considering the following sequence of actions:
  • Bring weight into the outer armpit pillar to free up the inner armpit/top chest.
  • Hollow out the armpit itself and excavate out space inside the inner armpit, separating it away from the underlying ribs.
  • Maintaining that space and separation, bring weight back into the inner armpit pillar, balancing out front and back.
  • Cycle through these action several times to help free and open the chest.

In some poses, such as Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Chatushpadasana (Four Footed Pose) you will find that the weight falls into the back of the armpit rather than the front. In that case, begin the above sequence by bringing weight into the front/inner armpit first.

I’ve found that some people with very open chests and shoulders can over-work this and push further into their tendency. If you know yourself to be such a person, be vigilant not to overdo these actions. Focus on always keeping the weight balanced between front and aback, inner and outer.

The Sequence:

Opening Wall Stretches:
• Side stretch at wall: Lean the right side of the body into the wall with the right arm overhead. Bend the right elbow, take hold of it with the left hand and draw the arm up and over the top of the head. Hold for a minute or two and repeat on the second side.
• Chest opener: Stand with the right hand on the wall at shoulder height. Keeping the shoulder blade down the back, spread the fingers and palms and straighten the elbow. Hold this position for several seconds. Without lifting the shoulder blade, turn the chest away from the wall. Hold this for several seconds. Release and repeat on the second side.
• Shoulder Stretch at wall: Place the forearms and elbows on the wall with the palms together. Make a right angle at the hips with the feet under the pelvis hip width apart. Draw the inner thighs back and reach the arms forward.

Opening Vinyasa:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) simple variation: one hand down without crossing the arm over the front leg
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Vashisthasana (Vashistha’s Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Practice the pose once with the hands turned out.
• Practice the pose again with the hands on the regular position.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) table top variation with the hands on blocks

Chatushpadasana (Four Footed Pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2) variation
• Belt the wrists at shoulder width, press out into the belt and reach through the arms. Come up into the pose grounding down through the upper arms with a minimum of momentum.
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Padangustha Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose)
• Use a belt to hold onto the feet if necessary.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) preparation
• Lift up and place the head crown of the head on the floor. Hold this position.
• Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 14 [Light on Yoga]

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

In this third of our sequences edited for time, we will focus on the inverted backbends, such as Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose).

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• 2 to 3 repetitions.

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• 3 to 5 repetitions.

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose)

Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana 1 (Single Leg Inverted Staff Pose 1)

Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana 2 (Single Leg Inverted Staff Pose 2)

Chakrabandhasana (Wheel Lock Pose)
• If you are unable to grab your ankles in this pose, simple work on bringing your hands and feet closer to each other.

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Next time, our practice will feature the advanced baby back bends.


Related Posts:

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


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 13 [Light on Yoga]

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

In this practice, the second of our sequences edited for time, we are focusing on the twists and the deep hip openers.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Arm Balance/Back Bend Vishamanyasa:
Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Cockerel Pose)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Parshva Kukkutasana (Side Cockerel Pose)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Parshva Bakasana ( Side Crow Pose)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Dwi Pada Koundinyasana (Two Leg Koundinya’s Pose)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 1)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)

Ankle-to-Knee Cycle:
[Do each of the following four hip openers all on one crossing and then all on the other.]

Ankle to Knee Pose
Revolved Ankle to Knee Pose
• Twist to the side of the top foot.
Side Ankle to Knee Pose
• Extended forward over the side of the top foot.
Ankle to Knee Pose

Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose)

Eka Pada Mulabandhasana (Single Leg Root Lock Pose)
• Also known as Janu Shirshasana C in the Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Series.

Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Kandasana (Knot Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time, our edited practice will feature the inverted back bends.


Related Posts:

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


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 12 [Light on Yoga]

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

Up to now we have been dissecting our advanced practice and exploring sequences to help us master the more challenging transitions and poses featured there. The full practice is quite long and very demanding from an endurance perspective. For the next few weeks we will take the practice as it stands and break it down into shorter pieces which will allow us to cycle through all the important parts over a series of days, rather than all in one big chunk. Each of these shorter practices will also include a few poses to prepare the body for the more advanced work,

In this first practice, the focus is elements of the arm balance vishamanyasa, the deep groin and hamstring openers and the deep forward bends.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Arm Balance/Back Bend Vishamanyasa:
Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 2)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Eka Pada Bakasana 1 (Single Leg Crow Pose 1)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
Eka Pada Bakasana 2 (Single Leg Crow Pose 2)
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)

Samakonasana (Straight Angle Pose)

Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)

Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose)

Kandasana (Knot Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Two Legs Behind the Head Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time we’ll focus on the deep hip openers and the twists.


Related Posts:

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


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Intermediate Practice: Balancing the Front and Back Body in Back Bends

This practice moves towards some deep back bends which require width across the back so as not crunch the lumbar area. In order to support the extension of the spine, consider the following actions as you work your way through the poses:
  • Allow the scapulae and the clavicles to move with arms to keep the shoulders and chest free.
  • Balance the gluteal wall—the plain of the body that contains gluteus maximus—with the lower abdominal wall. This means keeping them both wide, supple and supportive.
  • Balance the pectoral wall—the plain of the body that contains pectoralis major—with the rhomboid wall—the plain of the body that contains the rhomboids. Again, this means keeping them both wide, supple and supportive.
  • Direct the rhomboid and the gluteal walls towards the legs and the abdominal and pectoral walls towards the head.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) with the head on blocks

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana Arm Variation Cycle:
• Regular arm position.
• Hands turned out so fingertips point away from each other.
• Hands turned in so fingertips point towards each other.
• Hands turned back so fingertips point back, reverse of regular hand position. If you are unable to do this variation, try turning one hand back in the pose at a time.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Bog Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Bog Toe Pose 2)

Chatushpadasana (Four Footed Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Chatushpadasana (Four Footed Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose) Cycle:
[Do each of these poses with a chair set on the mat against the wall.]

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
• Do the pose with the front foot up on the seat of the chair.
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• From Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand), walk the feet down the wall to a middle rope hook, if available, or to the back of the chair. Hold for a few moments then swing the legs back into Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose).
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)
• Do the pose with the front foot up on the seat of the chair.
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• From Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand), walk the feet down the wall to the back of the chair. Hold for a few moments then swing the legs back into Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose).
Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Do the pose with the front foot up on the seat of the chair.
Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• From Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand), walk the feet down the wall to the seat of the chair. Hold for a few moments then swing the legs back into Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose).

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the calves on the chair


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Basic Practice: Lengthening the Front and Widening the Back

As the sequence moves into progressively deeper back bends, focus on keeping the back—the back ribs, the lower back and the buttocks—as wide as possible, expanding the ribs to support the back muscles.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

All Fours INTO Child’s Pose

Plank INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) INTO Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) with the hips resting on a block

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on the floor

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) soft variation, releasing into the pose

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 8 [Light on Yoga]

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

Our advanced sequence includes a series of five deep baby-backbends that include either an extreme flexion of the shoulder joint, an extreme extension of the hip joint or both:
To fully prepare the body for these poses, the quadriceps must be lengthened, the abdomen and chest opened in addition to properly organizing and opening up the hips and shoulders.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Eka Pada Bakasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Cross the legs in any accessible variation: Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose), Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).
• Do the pose with over a bolster under the back crosswise to create a back bend. Support the head and arms as necessary.
• Hold for 2 to 3 minutes each crossing of the legs.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Have a bolster under the abdomen/lower ribs to support and lift the belly.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Have a bolster under the abdomen/lower ribs to support and lift the belly.

Lunge Series:
Lunge with the hands on the floor and the back knee up
Lung with the hands on the floor and the back knee down
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the back knee down
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the front foot on a low block
Lunge with the hands on high blocks and the back toes on a low block

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 1)
• Use a belt to catch the foot if necessary.

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 2 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 2)
• Use a belt to catch the foot if necessary.

Padangustha Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose)
• Use a belt to catch the feet if necessary.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Do the pose with the chest against the wall.

Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)
• If possible, from the above position, bend the legs and reach back to grab the ankles, thighs or knees.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with a blanket roll under the abdomen

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose) over a bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time we’ll look at deep groin and hamstring openers like Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose) and Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose).


Related Posts:

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


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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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Intermediate Practice: Softening and Dividing the Abdominal Wall in Back Bends

Still thinking about quadratus lumborum and psoas, in this practice we will also think about the abdominal wall as we perform a series of back bending poses. For the front of the body to properly be able to lengthen, the torso to arch and the spine to extend, the abdominal muscles, especially rectus abdominis, must be free. If not, the chest will continually be pulled towards the pubic bone and the lower back will crunch as the lumbar spine tries to take the brunt of the arch.

As you go through the poses consider the following actions:
  • Elongate the psoas by lengthening behind the pubic bone, navel and sternum. Think of grounding/moving towards the legs the lesser trochanters, the lower attachment of the psoas, while widening and lifting/moving towards the head T12, the upper attachment.
  • Soften and widen the abdomen and allow it to fall back into the quadratus lumborum. Divide the abdomen at the navel, allowing the lower abdomen to move with the pubic bone and the upper abdomen to move with the sternum
  • Soften and widen the quadratus lumborum. To help this, soften and widen the buttocks and lengthen them toward the siting bones, while also softening and widening the lower lattisimus dorsi and lengthening them towards the head.
  • When twisting, initiate the movement in the quadratus lumborum, widening it and wrapping it around.

The Sequence:

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Child’s Pose with a blanket roll under the abdomen

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) over a bolster
• 3 to 5 minutes.

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Cross the legs in any accessible variation: Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose), Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).
• Do the pose with over a bolster under the back crosswise to create a back bend. Support the head and arms as necessary.
• Hold for 2 to 3 minutes each crossing of the legs.

Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose from Shoulder Stand)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose from Shoulder Stand)
• Do these with the elbows belted and a single blanket and folded mat under the shoulders.
• Repeat each drop-back 3 times.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Have a bolster under the abdomen/lower ribs to support and lift the belly.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Have a bolster under the abdomen/lower ribs to support and lift the belly.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
• Do the pose with the chest against the wall.

Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)
• If possible, from the above position, bend the legs and reach back to grab the ankles, thighs or knees.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 6 [Light on Yoga]

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

Inverted backbends, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) and Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose) can remain particularly challenging even as one’s practice advances. With the arms alongside the ears, particular care has to be paid to the organization of the shoulder girdle and upper ribcage to ensure that the opening of the back bend happens by arching the torso and extending the spine and not pushing into the shoulder joints. There is also a strength component, as one is pushing up into the pose from the floor with all four limbs. In order to successfully negotiate these poses, one has to develop the necessary strength and organization at the same time. This sequence addresses both these concerns, alternating between one and the other before bringing them both together at the end to practice the full poses.

The Sequence:


Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Halasana (Plough Pose)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) with the feet on a chair
• 2-3 repetitions.

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two leg Inverted Staff Pose) with the feet on a chair
• 2-3 repetitions.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• 2-3 repetitions.

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two leg Inverted Staff Pose)
• 2-3 repetitions.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time we’ll look at ways to approach the very intimidating Mandalasana (Mandala Pose).


Related Posts:

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


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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 5 [Light on Yoga]

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

In this final breakdown of the vishamanyasa portion of the practice, let’s look at the groin and hamstring opening elements of the sequence. The reason to have both the forward and backbends of the vishamanyasa as preparation for the groin and hamstring work is Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose) which is both a deep opening of the groin in the back leg and a deep stretch of the hamstring in the front.

The Sequence:

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Ado Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (SIngle Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 2 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 2)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 1)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 2 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 2)

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)

Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time we’ll look at a sequence that goes into the inverted back bends, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose), in depth.


Related Posts:

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


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Level 1 Group Class: Widening the Front and Back Evenly in Back Bends

In this class, focus on keeping the entire back body wide, including the buttocks, the lower back and the back ribs, as you elongate the trunk.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lung with the back leg straight

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) INTO Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)
• Come into the flat back variation of Parshvottanasana with the arms in front of you to the right. Hold for a few moments.
• Come out of the pose, adjust the position of the feet and go into Utthita Trikonasana to the right. Hold here.
• Come up and repeat on the second side.

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose) preparation INTO Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)
• Come into the flat back Prasarita Padottanasana preparation with the hands under the shoulders. Hold for a few moments.
• Come up, raise the arms overhead, turn to the right and go into Virabhadrasana 1. Hold here.
• Return to the Prasarita Padottanasana preparation and repeat to the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead
• Lie flat on the abdomen and reach the arms over head.
• Stretch the arms and the legs away from each other to elongate the trunk.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with the arms by the sides

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) with the arms by the sides

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) preparation with arms overhead

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Separating the Armpits and Chest, Softening the Work of the Arms [Light on Yoga]

This is a substantially modified version of the “Light on Yoga” sequence we are breaking down in Practice Lab at the moment. I kept tinkering with the sequencing over the course of the week, as it is right on the borderline between intermediate and advanced. This is the version that seemed to work most effectively.

Think about the following actions as you go through the sequence:
  • Widen the upper back and the top chest as evenly as possible.
  • Soften and widen the deltoids around the shoulder joints.
  • Balance the weight evenly between each of both inner and outer armpits, stretching through each of them evenly.
  • Excavate out space between the inner armpit and the underlying ribs while widening the very top of the chest to differentiate the chest from the armpits and strengthen the arms.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• 3 minutes.

Malasana (Garland Pose)
• Do the pose with the heels supported and a belt around the body and legs to support the thighs so that the inner thigh muscles can soften

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Feet on blocks.
• Arms loosely belted to keep the arm and shoulder organized.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Two more repetitions with or without props, as needed.

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)
• Set up with your mat at the wall with a chair on it next to the wall. Lie on the back in preparation to come up with the legs close to the chair, if not touching it.
• Go up into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Wheel Pose) and hold for a few moments.
• Bring the head back down to the ground and go into Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana . Hold for a few moments.
• Walk the feet closer together and step the feet up onto the feet of thew chair.
• Extend the legs and lift the head and shoulders up off the floor, moving the collarbones forward over the elbows. Lift the sides of the chest. Hold for a few moments.
• Bring the feet back to the floor, then replace the head on the floor in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, keeping the lift in the sides of the chest and the width across the back.
• Hold for a few moments and then release.
• Go through this cycle twice.

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Related Posts:
Intermediate Group Class: Separating the Armpits and Chest, Softening the Work of the Arms [Light on Yoga]
Intermediate Group Class: Separating the Armpits and Chest to Create Upper Body Strength


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Practice Lab: Forward, Around and Back [Light on Yoga]

This practice, adapted from the one found on p.481 in the Schocken edition of “Light on Yoga” (fourth day of the week) features inversions followed by extremely deep forward bends, followed by extremely deep back bends.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand ) drop backs
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose) drop backs
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)
Parshva Padmasana (Side Lotus Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• 3 times: kicking up with primary leg, second leg, both legs together.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)
• twice: kicking up with primary leg and second leg.

Sayanasana (Pose of Repose) at the wall

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Hamsasana (Swan Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose)

Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana 1 (Single Leg Inverted Staff Pose 1)

Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana 2 (Single Leg Inverted Staff Pose 2)
• In this variation, you lift your head off the ground, walk your foot in and hold on to your heel with your fingers.
• To work up to this, set your mat up at the wall and place a chair on the mat against the wall. Come into Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana and lift the head off the floor. Place one foot on the chair for support and walk the other foot in towards the hands. Repeat on the other side.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Separating the Armpits and Chest to Create Upper Body Strength

This class features what Mr. Iyengar calls a vishamanyasa. Whereas vinyasa is the sequential placing of similar poses one after another to create a continuous flow, vishamanyasa is the placing of radically different poses together. In this case, arm balances are mixed with Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). It is a modification of the practice from “Light on Yoga” found on p.484 of the Schocken edition that was featured in last week’s Practice Lab.

Anatomically speaking, this sequence offers a perfect opportunity to play with the arms, shoulders and trunk. Think about the following actions as you go through the sequence:
  • Widen the upper back and the top chest as evenly as possible.
  • Soften and widen the deltoids around the shoulder joints.
  • Balance the weight evenly between each of both inner and outer armpits, stretching through each of them evenly.
  • Excavate out space between the inner armpit and the underlying ribs while widening the very top of the chest to differentiate the chest from the armpits and strengthen the arms.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose) with the following arm variations
• Urdhva Baddha Hastasana (Upward Bound Hands Pose), clasping the elbows overhead, both crossings.
• Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Reverse Bound Hands Pose), clasping the elbows behind the back, both crossings.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshva Bakasana Shirshasana (Side Bound Angle Pose in Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-backs
• 3 sets.

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the Arms Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Ashtavakrasana (Ashtavakra’s Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 3 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Arm Balances and Back Bends

This practice features a challenging sequence of arm balances interspersed with Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose) where you go from Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) and back. It’s a great workout for the chest and arms. This is another modification of a practice from “Light on Yoga”. You can find the full practice on p.484 of the Schocken edition).

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3)
Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand)
Mukta Hasta Shirshasana (Free Hand Head Stand)
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg Revolved Head Stand)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Parshva Baddha Konasana (Side Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) in Head Stand

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Urdhva Padmasana Sarvangasana (Upward Lotus Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Urdhva Padmasana Sarvangasana (Side Upward Lotus Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Parshva Pindasana (Side Embryo Pose)

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the Arms Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Ashtavakrasana (Ashtavakra’s Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Cockerel Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Parshva Kukkutasana (Side Cockerel Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Dwi Pada Koundinyasana (Two Leg Koundinya’s Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya’s pose 1)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Eka Pada Bakasana 1 (Single Leg Crow Pose 1)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Eka Pada Bakasana 2 (Single Leg Crow Pose 2)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)
• Walking down and up the wall.

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 10 minutes.


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Level 1 Group Class: Elongating the Trunk to Protect the Lower Back

In this class we will be opening the hip crease in back bends. To lengthen the thigh and open the abdomen, keep the back leg in the standing poses strong, modifying your poses to accommodate this (bringing the feet closer together in standing poses, for example). To protect the lower back, work on the following actions:
  • Widen and lengthen the buttock flesh away from the head.
  • Reach the legs away from the head.
  • Lengthen the abdomen and sides towards the head.

The Sequence

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation: legs crossed in Sukhasana, lying back flat on the floor with the arms overhead.
• 90 seconds each crossing.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back knee down and the hands on the floor

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back knee down and the hands on the thigh, the trunk lifted

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padasana (Extended Hands and Feet Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the arms raised

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Sphinx Pose

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Eka Pada Dhanurasana
• From Sphinx Pose, bring one forearm across the body, reach back and do bow pose on one side, then switch.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
• Do this twice.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into a forward bend

Child’s Pose over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Mandalasana [Light on Yoga]

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose) is a tricky and topsy-turvy pose where you come into Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana and walk your feet around in a circle. This is a modification of a practice from “Light on Yoga” that features the pose. You can find the full practice on p.481 of the Schocken edition).

The Sequence

Side Stretch on a chair or ledge
• Place the elbows on the chair (from a kneeling position) or ledge (from a standing position) with the arms bent and the hands together in Namaskarasana (Prayer Position).
• Hold the pose for 2 to 3 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• 1 minute.

Shirshasana Cycle
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle
Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
• Come into the pose from Sarvangasana.
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
• Come into the pose from Sarvangasana.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 1 minute.

Parivrtta Pashchimottanasana (Revolved Intense West Stretch Pose)

Akarna Dhanurasana (Bow to the Ear Pose)

Uttanapadasana (Stretched Out Upward Facing Pose)

Setubandhasana (Bridge Lock Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Behind the Head Pose)

Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Both Legs Behind the Head Pose)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose)

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose) at the wall
• This refers to coming into and out of Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from Hand Stand.
• 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).
• 8 times.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Expanding the Rib Cage in Back Bends

Continuing on from the idea of balancing the lumbar/thoracic joint of the spine, we will be working on balancing the joints of the entire thoracic spine, including the cervical/thoracic joint, by expanding the rib cage.

Think of the rib cage as having three bands:
  • The stomach ribs: the lower ribs that wrap around the kidneys, stomach and liver and that attach to the cartilage that leads up to the bottom of the sternum.
  • The heart ribs: the middle ribs that wrap around the heart and lungs.
  • The neck ribs: the first two ribs to which the scalene muscles of the neck attach.

We are going to be expanding each rib band both from front to back and from back to front to crate space three-dimensionally. In the back bends we need to pay particular attention to the back of the rib bands to create support for the spinal extensors and to create room for the spine to move into the body as it extends.

When expanding the neck ribs, the scalene muscles contract, potentially creating hardness in the neck. Think of the neck as having a core of muscle and connective tissue that is close to the spine and a sheath that wraps around it. In each of these poses think of keeping the neck core long while softening and expanding the sheath.

In addition, when taking the back bends, think of moving the sides of the chest, where the armpits and pectorals meet, and lifting them as much as possible. In addition, think of moving the wall of connective tissue surrounding the buttocks away from the head towards the feet to create a balanced arch in the spine.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back over a small mat roll or a thin- and narrow-folded blanket to create a very gently arch of the back.
• 3 minutes.

Side Stretch on a chair or ledge
• Place the elbows on the chair (from a kneeling position) or ledge (from a standing position) with the arms bent and the hands together in Namaskarasana (Prayer Position).
• Hold the pose for 2 to 3 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand) preparation only
• Bring the leg back into a split without turning.
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand) preparation only

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana Cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head down variation
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head up variation
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Do the whole cycle all on one leg, then all on the other.

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)
• 3 minutes.

Chatushpadasana (Four Footed Pose)

Sarvangasana Drop-Back Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• Use only one blanket and belt the elbows. Take care not to try and get the same lift in the back and openness in the chest in Shoulder Stand as you would on three blankets.
• Do the whole cycle on one leg and then the other.
• Repeat three to five times for both legs.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Uttanapadasana (Stretched Out Upward Facing Pose)

Setubandhasana (Bridge Lock Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Come into the pose from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) walking the hands down the wall, then walking them back up.
• 5 times.

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose) at the wall
• This refers to coming into and out of Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from Hand Stand.
• 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).

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Drop-Backs From Tadasana [Light on Yoga]

When we went to practice yesterday, we took a little time to get started and ended up having to pair back our intended practice from the sequence in “Light on Yoga” we had planned (the sequence for weeks 61 to 65 on p.471 of the Schocken edition). This raised the question of how much you can cut out of the sequences before they start to fall apart. We ended up cutting out the variations in Head Stand and Shoulder Stand, some of the arm balances and all of the twists which should have come after them. When the time came to work on the drop-backs, we decided that we should probably have cut the arm balances and kept in the inversions and the twists, as we were lacking some of the organization needed to optimally go to the floor and back up.

The Sequence

Supta Virasana (Hero Pose) over a bolster
• 3 to 5 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• 1 to 2 minutes.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• 3 minutes.

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana Cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head down variation
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head up variation
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Do the whole cycle all on one leg, then all on the other.

Anantasana (Vishnu’s Couch Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 1 minute.

Parivrtta Pashchimottanasana (Revolved Intense West Stretch Pose)

Akarna Dhanurasana (Bow to the Ear Pose)

Kurmasana (Turtle Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose)

Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Behind the Head Pose)

Skandasana (Single Leg Behind the Head Forward Bend)

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the Arms Pose)

Ashtavakrasana (Ashtavakra’s Pose)

Padmasana Cycle
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)
Simhasana 2 (Lion Pose 2)
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Do the whole cycle all on one crossing of the legs, then all on the other.

Uttanapadasana (Stretched Out Upward Facing Pose)

Setubandhasana (Bridge Lock Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Come into the pose from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) walking the hands down the wall, then walking them back up.
• 6 times.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• From the floor.
• 6 times.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Balancing the Lumbar/Thoracic Vertebral Joint [Light on Yoga]

The joint between the first lumbar vertebra (L1) and the last thoracic vertebra (T12) often gets a lot of abuse, getting gripped and hardened as we try to muscle through our poses. In this practice focus on these actions:
  • Soften and widen the lower ribs from front to back.
  • Soften and widen the muscle and connective tissue on either side of the spine from the tailbone to the back of the neck, even in the back bends.
  • Expand the lumbar/thoracic joint to support the surrounding tissue, rather than gripping the surrounding tissue to support the joint.

This sequence is adapted from p. 473 of the Schocken edition of “Light on Yoga”.

The Sequence

Side Stretch at the wall
• Stand with the feet together about eight to twelve inches away from the wall and lean the right hip, waist and ribs against it. Reach the right arm up. Pause here for a few breaths.
• Come up onto the balls of the feet. Stay here for a few breaths.
• Slowly drop the right heel, resisting up through the ribs and arms to lengthen out the right side of the waist. When the right heel is down, drop the left.
• Bend the right elbow and clasp it with the left hand. Draw the upper arm bone up towards the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Take the tip of the elbow up and over the top of the head while keeping the outer armpit moving into the wall. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Turn the chest a slightly into the middle of the room to send the stretch towards the back. Hold here for a few breaths.
• Release and repeat on the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• Hold for no more than a minute.
• Come down out of the pose and without disturbing the placement of the head (if possible) go into the next pose.
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
• Hold for 20 to 30 seconds on each side.
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Baddha Konasana Mayurasana (Bound Angle Pose in Peacock Pose)

Nakrasana (Crocodile Pose)
• From Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) hop lightly forward 3 to 5 times, then back the same amount.

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Parshva Dhanurasana (Side Bow Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana Cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head down variation
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) head up variation
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Do the whole cycle all on one leg, then all on the other.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Chakrasana (Wheel Pose)
• Roll from Halasana (Plough Pose) to Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Try this from a 3-blanket Shoulder Stand set-up to protect the neck.
• DO NOT press the head into the floor to help the transition. Use the strength of the arms and legs.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose) preparation
• Put the feet up on a block with the heels together.
• Make a square shape with the legs, reach forward and take hold of the feet.
• Lengthen the sides forward towards the feet.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Standing Poses (from "Light on Yoga")

One of the reasons I got behind with my posts last week was because of this new obsession that Kristen and I have been developing over the sequences in “Light on Yoga”. When we got together last Monday to practice, we ended up doing one of the more basic sequences from LoY and I was thinking I might do something not from the book later in the week for variety and to have something to write about. Turns out I didn’t. I was back on the old BKS treadmill. (There’s something great about not having to think and plan what you’re going to do all the time.) I was even trying to come up with advanced classes that weren’t based on the book (coming soon), but then I found out that Kristen was teaching from the book as well. So I surrendered to the call. It’s going to be all “Beeks” (as my friend Leslie calls him) all the time for a few weeks. One could do worse.

This sequence comes from the end of the first course in the back of the book. After 30 weeks of progressive sequences he offers a three-day course that hits all the important poses from the course. This is the third day, which mostly features standing poses. Notes that it begins with Shirshasana (Head Stand), but there is NO SHOULDER STAND! Shocking! I wondered if it was a typo, but I have a newer UK edition that corrects some other mistakes, and this was unchanged.

I should add that all of these Light on Yoga sequences that I’ve been presenting have pranayama associated with them as well, but I haven’t been practicing or teaching them that way. Iyengar pranayama has moved on so much since then, it doesn’t really fit with these sequences any more. The body is too exhausted to have the necessary sensitivity and ease required.

The Sequence

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 10 minutes.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)

Padahastasana (Hand Under Foot Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (One Foot Extended Up Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Paryankasana (Couch Pose)

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)

Tolasana (Scale Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
• In the book, Gomukhasana is presented with the shins together underneath you, rather than heels apart as is more commonly practiced.

Lolasana (Tremulous Pose)

Simhasana 1 (Lion Pose 1)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Legs and Psoas in Baby Backbends

Pigeon pose over a chair
Two groups of actions to think about here. The first grounds the legs properly and directs the movement of the upper body. The second supports the psoas and the spine in the back bend.

As you go through the poses, think about the actions in this sequence:
  • Widen the gluteus maximus and lengthen it down towards the sitting bones. Soften and widen the lower front ribs from front to back and back to front.
  • Send the quadriceps down the length of the leg towards the knee and the hamstrings up towards the sitting bones. The gluteus is superficial to the hamstrings, so it is as if you are sliding the hamstrings up under the buttocks, while keeping the crease between the two wide and free.
  • Widen the latissimus dorsi across the lower ribs and both lift it and roll it towards the head, so that it acts as a pair of hands supporting and lifting the back. Take care not to poke the front ribs forward as you do this, keep them softening and widening back. Allow the lower back ribs to settle into the lats.
  • Re-widen and lengthen the gluteus.

In the deeper back bends you can cycle through these actions two or three times, keeping the breath soft and easy.

The Sequence

Lying over a block
• This really needs to be done with a foam block. I would imagine a wooden block to be much too hard.
• The purpose of this to create release in the psoas and iliacus.
• Lie face down with the block under the pubic bone. Hold for a minute or two.
• Shift the block across the right hip crease, under the hip bone and hold for a minute or two. Then do the left side for the same amount of time.
• Move the block so that it is across the abdomen at the level of the hip bones, beneath the navel. If your hips are narrow, you might find that both hip bones rest on the block. Hold for a minute or two.
• Slide the right hip bone off the block and dip it down so that the edge of the block settles into the side of the abdomen. Go easy with this. Hold for a minute or two. Repeat on the second side.
• Go back to the middle for a few breaths and then lie on the back in Shavasana (Corpse Pose) for a few moments before continuing on.
• If the block is too intense, you might use a rolled up mat or a 10-12” soft exercise ball.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined big Toe Pose 2)

Back Bend over a bolster
• Lie back with a bolster across the back.
• Support the head properly with a block or folded blanket so that the back of the neck does not shorten excessively.
• Reach the arms overhead.
• Hold for a minute or two.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Kick up once with your dominant leg, once with your non-dominant leg, and once with both legs.
• Rest in Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart in between.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)
• Kick up once with your dominant leg, once with your non-dominant leg.
• Rest in Child’s Pose in between.

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Lunge Series
• Lunge with back knee down and hands on blocks under the shoulders.
• Lunge with back knee down and front foot up on a block.
• Lunge with back knee down, shin against the wall and hands on blocks under the shoulders.

Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on bolster
• Have the bolster across the lower abdomen so that the upper body is propped up and the abdomen and thighs can release back and down.

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Laghuvajrasana (Little Thunderbolt Pose) over a chair

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) with the feet on a bolster

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Padangustha Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose) with a belt
• Loop a belt around the feet and hold on to the tail of the belt.

Gherandasana 1 (Gheranda’s Pose 1) (picture is a little over half way down the page)
• Loop a belt around the Padangustha Dhanurasana foot.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) forward bend with legs only

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Site Update: Back Bends

Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose
Check out the newly-updated back bends section now featuring 25 new poses, from basic to advanced!









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Level 1 Group Class

Single Leg Frog Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have a block between the thighs and pull it back.
• Grip the edges of the mat and pull them forward.

Child’s Pose
• Grip the edges of the mat and pull them forward.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Seal the hands into the mat.

Child’s Pose
• Seal the hands into the mat.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the knees a little bit bent.
• Hold onto the elbows and draw the upper arms down towards the floor.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• 3 rounds.

[Perform the following series flowing from pose to pose, holding each for 30 seconds or so.]

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
• 2 repetitions.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
• 2 repetitions, both finger crossings.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Shalabhasana 2 (Locust Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Plank Pose on the tops of the feet
Lower yourself with control to the floor

Lung with the back knee down

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

At the studio in Brooklyn two of the teachers (Eve Holbrook and Jen Kagan) are teaching a series of workshops of sequences that they were taught in RIMYI, the Iyengar center in Pune, by Geeta Iyengar. I have yet to make it to them, but Kristen has and she’s been wowed by Geeta’s sequencing. So she had the idea of us doing a sequence from Geeta’s book “Yoga: A Gem for Women.”

“Gem” is a tough book to read. It’s full of great information, but it is really badly laid out, which is a shame. Published in 1990, it has tips and sequences that are useful not just to women. Her sequencing is extremely interesting and unconventional, by the standards of what is thought acceptable in the Iyengar community at large. In the sequence that Kristen and I practiced (reproduced below from p.112 of the 2002 Timeless Books edition) Head Stand is this first thing you do, without a warm-up, and you do twists, ropes and back bends after Shoulder Stand. All of these things would be considered no-no’s in a class taught in the West these days. And this sequence is part of what she calls the “Elementary Course.”

Geeta is, however Mr. Iyengar’s successor and what she says, goes. I find it interesting how there is a constant discrepancy between the way things are supposed to be done and the way senior teachers and the Iyengars themselves actually do things. Iyengar yoga is increasingly presented as this rigid, militaristic practice in the West, when the truth is there is still a great amount of playfulness in the way it is taught in India. [There are, of course, horror stories of aggressive and damaging behavior from senior teachers that filter back from Pune, so let us not paint too rosy a picture of the mothership.]

Try this sequence out and see how you feel afterwards. I’m writing this the morning after the practice. My back is sore, in a good way, and I had an excellent and refreshing night’s sleep. There’s definitely something in this way she is sequencing that makes me want to explore it more.

The Sequence

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• Toes on a chair.

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) seated portion only

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) on the ropes (She calls this Yoga Kurunta I)
• Leaning forward holding onto the ropes with the feet away from the wall.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) on the ropes (She calls this Yoga Kurunta 2)
• Leaning forward holding onto the ropes with the feet at the wall.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair
• She presents it over a bench so that the body is horizontal. We used 2 chairs.
• Reach the arms through the front chair legs to grab the back chair legs.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair
• Still on the two chairs, slide off until you can get your head and arms to the floor in the classic set-up.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
• This first variation is presented with the hands on the back as in Sarvangasana the hips and legs horizontal and the feet pressing against a bench at the wall. We just used the wall.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)
• This second variation is presented lying over a high Setu Bandha Bench so that only the pelvis is on the bench. We used two chairs and bolsters under the shoulders. IO found this really hard on the sacrum and had to come out of it pretty quickly, though Kristen didn’t have a problem

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class

Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand
I had an interesting challenge to face this week. I had a class that used a rope wall a LOT, but then I had to reconceive the class for a non-iyengar studio without a rope wall and no other props than blocks, blankets and belts. I thought I’d post both here.

Overall, we were still working with widening and releasing the large muscles of the back: gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and trapezius. In particular, we began to zero in on the neck and shoulder girdle with the following actions:
  • Soften and widen the upper half of the trapezius, releasing the back of the neck and loosening the upper shoulder blades away from each other.
  • As you widen the back, widen and deepen the eyes of the chest, balancing the front and back.
  • Expand the neck ribs (the first two ribs) three dimensionally.
  • Either turn the neck ribs towards the head in a back bend or away from the head in a forward bend.

On top of that, create a feeling of softness and fluidity in the the back body as you move.

Sequence 1 (with rope wall):

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) on ropes
• Hold onto rope and hang in the pose to stretch out the back.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on ropes
INTO Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose) on ropes
INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on ropes
• From Adho Mukha Shvanasana on the ropes with the heels on the wall, reach back and either take hold of the lowest rope hook or the ankles, depending on your reach.
• Let the head hang. If the head touches the floor, walk the feet forward.
• Go back to Adho Mukha Shvanasana for a few moments to finish.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose) on ropes
• Tie a low rope between two high ropes on separate rope stations as if setting up for hanging Shirshasana (Head Stand).
• Drape a couple of blankets over the ropes for cushioning.
• Climb up into the ropes with the loop behind the back ribs and the hips hanging down.
• Straighten the legs and rest the backs of the thighs on the wall.
• Slide down a little to deepen the stretch and draw the flesh of the back towards the head.
• Release the chin into the chest.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows bent and the hands on the floor next to the elbows as if about to go into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
• Stretch the triceps through the elbows.
• 2-3 repetitions.

Dandasana (Staff Pose) rope lift
• Loop the arms through the ropes of one rope station and grasp the hands knots.
• Straighten the arms, standing up on a block if necessary.
• Keep the arms straight and pick the knees up and hold.
• Repeat 2-3 times.
• For the second set of 2-3 repetitions, try to come up with the legs bent, the straighten the legs.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows bent and the hands on the floor next to the elbows as if about to go into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
• Stretch the triceps through the elbows.
• 2-3 repetitions.

Shirshasana (Head Stand)/Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose) on ropes sequence.
• Halve a high rope on each of two adjacent rope stations.
• Grasp the ropes and walk the feet up the wall so that you end up with the back and legs flat against the wall.
• Hold for a few moments.
• Slide down the wall into Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana.
• Hold for a few moments.
• Slide or walk back up to the Sirshasana position.
• 2-3 repetitions.

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose)

Ropes 1
• 5-8 repetitions

Rolling sequence:
• Roll back and forth with the knees bent, softening the back, 5-8 reps.
• Roll between Dandasana (Staff Pose), Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) and Halasana (Plough Pose), 5-8 reps.
• Add Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) to the sequence between Dandasana and Halasana, 5-8 reps.

Ropes 1
• 5-8 repetitions

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) INTO Halasana (Plough Pose)
• Roll up and down with control and no momentum, 5-8 reps.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Once with each leg kicking up in the regular hand position.
• Once with hands turned out.
• Once with each of the hands turned back.

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over the chair
• Do the pose with a rolled up mat across the edge of the chair under the upper back.

Chair Drop-Back Sequence:
[Cycle through the following 3-4 times]
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) one side only
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to chair one side only
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) second side
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to chair second side
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to chair

Drop- Back Sequence:
[Cycle through the following 3-4 times]
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) one side only
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to floor one side only
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand) second side
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to floor second side
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back to floor

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Sequence 2 (without rope wall):

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over bolster, 5 min

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined big Toe Pose 2) 2 min each side

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) into wall
• Have a block between the thighs.
• Rest the forearms on the wall.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Come into the pose with the back against the wall.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows bent and the hands on the floor next to the elbows as if about to go into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
• Stretch the triceps through the elbows.
• 2-3 repetitions.

Rolling sequence:
• Roll back and forth with the knees bent, softening the back, 5-8 reps.
• Roll between Dandasana (Staff Pose), Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) and Halasana (Plough Pose), 5-8 reps.
• Add Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) to the sequence between Dandasana and Halasana, 5-8 reps.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows bent and the hands on the floor next to the elbows as if about to go into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
• Stretch the triceps through the elbows.
• 2-3 repetitions.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) INTO Halasana (Plough Pose)
• Roll up and down with control and no momentum, 5-8 reps.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Once with each leg kicking up in the regular hand position.
• Once with hands turned out.
• Once with each of the hands turned back.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)
• Palms up instead of down.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with blocks under the sacrum and blankets under the shoulders

Eka Pada Setu Bandha (Single Leg Bridge Pose) with blocks under the sacrum and blankets under the shoulders

Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2) with the wrists belted instead of the hands clasped
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class

King Dancer Pose
This sequence continues the ideas from previous weeks about softening and widening the big muscles of the back--gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and trapezius--and unlacing the spine from the back.

Many of these poses are asymmetrical back-bends and can be thought of as “twisting” back bends as one side gets pulled towards the back leg. When, say, the left leg is back, widen the left back ribs away from the spine and around to the sternum as you widen the right ribs away from the sternum around into the spine. Keep the bones and muscles wide and full so as not to pinch along the spine. As you turn, differentiate the upper ribs from the shoulder girdle, so that the twist can happen inside the collarbones, arm bones and shoulder blades.

The Sequence


Utkatasana (Furious Pose) on ropes
• Hold onto rope and hang in the pose to stretch out the back.

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand To Big Toe Pose) with foot on ledge

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)
• Repeat on both sides.

Padangustha Dhanurasana (Big Toe Bow Pose)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 2 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 2) variation at the wall
• Lean forward and reach the arms up the wall to stretch out the back.

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 2 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 2) full pose

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)
• Support the pose by stacking blankets/bolsters up underneath you.
• Keep the trunk upright, shoulders over the hips, and the arms down by the sides.

Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose) variation
• Do the pose with the standing leg bent and the raised leg resting on a chair.

Natarajasana (King Dancer Pose) variation
• From the above variation, shift the weight forward onto the front leg and come to stand.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Uttanasana (Revolved Intense Stretch Pose)

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the legs up on a chair


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Level 1 Group Class

Table Top Pose

The idea this week was to stretch out the front of the body by opening up the hip crease: lengthening down from the hip crease into the thigh and stretching up from the hip crease to the top of the head. Keep the lower back from crunching by widening the back ribs, lengthening the buttock flesh down the body and stretching the sides of the waist up towards the head.

The Sequence

Camel Pose
Opening Stretches
• Lie on the back with the feet flat and the knees up. Wrap the arms across the chest and hugh the shoulder blades. Stay here for a minute or so to soften and widen the back body. At the half-way mark of your time here, change the crossing of the arms.
• Still on the back with the knees up, reach the right arm over head, resting it on the floor. Bring the left hand across to the top of the chest on the right side. As you inhale, reach through the arm. As you exhale, keep reaching through the arm and press the chest down into the floor. Widen the back ribs.

Opening Vinyasa
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back leg straight
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back leg straight, second side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with the hands on the hips

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1) with a belt around the wrists
• Press out into the belt and widen the back

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge Sequence
• Back leg up, hands on the floor
• Back knee down, hands on the floor
• Back knee down, hands on blocks under the shoulders
• Back knee down, front foot on one block, one hand on second block under shoulder so that trunk is lifted
• Back knee down, block under back foot, toes curled under, one hand on second block under shoulder so that trunk is lifted.

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) Table Top Variation with the hands on blocks

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (elbows clasped behind the back)

Purvottanasana (Intense East Stretch Pose) Table Top Variation with the hands on blocks

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) with the feet up on a bolster

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose) either repeating with the bolster, or toes curled under, or full pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) holding the ankles with the feet on a block

Reclined buttock stretch
• One ankle on the opposite thigh, draw the legs in.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) holding the ankles with the feet on a block

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) with the feet on the wall)

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose) on the bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a bolster under the knees


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Sequencing

My first Iyengar teacher was extremely creative and unconventional in her approach to sequencing. She has a poetic way of sequencing that is both logical and intuitive, but she very much does not toe the line in terms of the way she sequences a class (bless her), so I never really got the hang of the classic Iyengar sequencing at that stage. Unfortunately, a subsequent disastrous and inadequate teacher training did very little to fill that gap. I have, of late, been studying with Donald Moyer in Berkeley, as regular readers will know. Donald is also extremely innovative and creative, while remaining intuitive and logical in his approach, but in some ways he is very old school when it comes to his sequencing. I've been teaching and practicing in his manner quite a lot lately, and it has been a wonderful exercise in getting inside the classical Iyengar mentality. Sometimes the method gets accused of being dry and repetitive, but there is an elegance to the sequencing. I offer you here my limited understanding of the form.

Here follows a breakdown of the major pose categories and where they fit in the scheme. This first chart is not an actual way of practicing. Think of it as a diagram of a hypothetical sequence including all the different possibilities:



This would break down into the following practice sequences for each of the four major categories. Obviously there are other types of poses -- arm balances, abdominals and such. Each of these has their own rationale, but think about how you are practicing them. How do they relate to standing poses, to twists, back bends or forward bends? This might give you an idea of where a pose such as Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) might go.











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