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

Here is a breakdown with links to each section of our series in which we pick apart an advanced sequence from “Light on Yoga”:

  1. The Full Practice
  2. Breaking Down the Practice and a Basic Expression of the Scheme
  3. An Outline of a Working Methodology and Breaking Down the Vishamanyasa Sequence
  4. Breaking Down the Arm Balance Vishamanyasa and Twists
  5. Breaking Down the Arm Balance Vishamanyasa and the Groin/Hamstring Openers
  6. Breaking Down the Inverted Back Bends
  7. Breaking Down Mandalasana (Mandala Pose)
  8. Breaking Down the Advanced Baby Back Bends
  9. Breaking Down the Combination Hip Flexion/Extension Poses
  10. Breaking Down the Deep Outward Hip Rotation Poses
  11. Breaking Down the Twists and the Extreme Hip Flexion Poses
  12. Edited Sequence 1: Vishamanyasa and Groin and Hamstring Openers
  13. Edited Sequence 2: Vishamanyasa, Twists and Deep Outward Hip Rotation
  14. Edited Sequence 3: Inverted Back Bends
  15. Edited Sequence 4: Advanced Baby Back Bends


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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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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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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 11 [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 our final exploration of the more challenging poses of our sequence, we are going to have a look at both the twists, culminating in Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose), and the extreme hip flexions, Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose) and Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Both Legs Behind the Head Pose).

These poses all require a lot of space around the hip joint. The inner thighs and the gluteals need to be opened up for the proper placement of the legs.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
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)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure in the Ear Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Parshva Karnapidasana (Side Pressure on the Ear Pose)
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Parshva Pindasana (Side Embryo Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana Cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) with the head down
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) with the head up

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

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

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

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Eka Hasta Bhujasana (Single Hand and Arm Pose)

Dwi Hasta Bhujasana (Both Hands and Arms Pose)

Kurmasana (Turtle Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Both Legs Behind the Head Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


For the next few weeks, we will look at ways to break our advanced sequence down into smaller chunks with appropriate necessary preparation for each of the main practice sections.


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 10 [Light on Yoga]

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

The next challenge that we must tackle in our sequence is a collection of three deep outward rotations of the thigh in the hip socket: Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose), Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose) and Kandasana (Knot Pose). Each of these poses are quite tricky, as they require not only open hip joints, but also mobile knees, lower legs, ankles and toes.

The Sequence:

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with a blanket behind the knees

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the toes turned under

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) with the shins together

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) with the heels apart

Upavishtha Garudasana (Seated Eagle Pose)
• Sitting on the floor, cross the right leg over the left as for Garudasana (Eagle Pose).
• Turn to your left, bringing the right knee across the body and onto the floor. Turn to face the floor, supporting yourself on your elbows and walk the trunk around to face the wall behind you. Hold this pose for half a minute.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Garudasana (Eagle Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

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 Sarvangasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) in Shoulder Stand

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable 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

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

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

Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose)

Baddha Konasana Cycle:
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) at the wall
• Come into the pose sitting up on one or two folded blankets with the back against the wall.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) at the wall with a block between the feet
• From the above position, place a block between the feet.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
Kandasana (Knot Pose) at the wall with the feet on a block
• From the above position, place the block under the feet.
• Hold for 1 to 2 minutes.
Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose) at the wall
• Take the block away and turn the toes under and the heels up.
• Place a wedge between the heels and the pubic bone and use it to gently lever the heels away from the body.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with the back against the wall and a block between the thighs
• Make sure to keep the knees directly over the ankles.
• This will help to strengthen and stabilize the knee joint. (See Sandy Blaine’s excellent “Yoga for Healthy Knees.”)
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with a roll under the bottom of the thighs
• Have the roll under the thigh bones just above the knees and press down into it, activating the lower thigh muscles.
• This is another excellent knee stabilizer.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the legs elevated, either on a chair or a bolster


Next time we’ll look at the final two sections of our practice, the deep twists and forward 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 9 [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 truly features a bit of everything. After all the arm balances and all the back bends comes lots of deep work in and around the hip joint. The three poses that we are focusing on this time—Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose), Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose) and Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)—are each a variation of a deep split, requiring length and freedom in both the font of the hip joint, the hip flexors, lower abdomen and quadriceps, behind it, in the buttock, the lower back and the hamstring, and in the inner thighs.

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 Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)

Padahastasana (Hand Under Foot Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Ekapadasana (Single Leg Extended Up Pose)

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
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

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)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha (Single Leg Bridge Pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

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

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)
• If you are unable to do the full pose, bringing the pelvis down to the floor, stack a bolster and/or blankets up underneath you so that you are able to rest completely down on them, allowing the muscles to release completely, without having to negotiate holding you up.

Samakonasana (Same Angle Pose)
• Similarly here, stack the props up underneath as high as necessary to fully support you with your legs out to the side.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) with a belt around the foot and the back on the floor.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) holding on to the big toe and lifting the head

Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)
• If you are unable to do the full pose with the back on the floor, lift the torso up to clasp the heel with both hands. Either stack bolster and/or blankets up under your back to support your torso, or reach the waist towards your head and widen the back towards the floor without the support.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next time will go further into hip and groin territory exploring Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose), Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose) and Kandasana (Knot 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 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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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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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 4 [Light on Yoga]

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

Still working on the concept of vishamanyasa (a deliberate alternating of radically different categories of pose), this sequence pulls out the twisted arm balances that broaden the back and sequences them with a simple but challenging back bend, Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose). This gives you a chance to work on safely and intelligently making the challenging transitions from forward bend to back bend. It also gives you a chance to experience the freedom having a wide and free back body can give you in back bending poses.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangustahsana cycle:
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Ado Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)
Baddha Konasana Shirshasana (Bound Angle Pose Head Stand)
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose Head Stand)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Parshva Karnapidasana (Side Pressure on the Ear Pose)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose Shoulder Stand)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose Shoulder Stand)

Vishamanyasa:
Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
Dwi Pada Koundinyasana (Two Leg Koundinya’s Pose)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 1)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Next week we’ll play with a sequence that involves deep groin openers and hamstring stretches.


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 3 [Light on Yoga]

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

There are several possible strategies we can use to break down and work with the sequence in a more manageable way. The first would be to come up with a series of simple practices that focus on an individual section, with a thorough, but realistic build-up to the main work of the sequence, followed by supportive restorative work. To recap, here are the main sections of the practice:
  • Vishamanyasa 1: Simple arm balances and preps for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
  • Vishamanyasa 2: Back-broadening and twisting arm balances and preps for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
  • Vishamanyasa 3: Groin-opening Poses, such as Bakasana (Crow Pose) and Eka Pada Koundinyasana 1 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 1) with preps for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).
  • Inverted Back Bends.
  • Mandalasana (Mandala Pose).
  • Advanced Baby Back Bends.
  • Groin/Hamstring/Hip Openers.
  • Twists and Deep Forward Bends
Having consolidated the poses we are familiar with and made some headway with the poses that are newer and more challenging for us, we can then start to practices edited versions of the sequence that feature adequate preparation and segments of the sequence that most relate to each other:
  • Arm balance vishamanyasa, groin/hamstring openers and deep forward bends.
  • Arm balance vishamanyasa, deep hip openers and twists.
  • Arm balance vishamanyasa and inverted back bends.
  • Arm balance vishamanyasa and advanced baby back bends.
  • Inverted back bends and advanced baby back bends.
Today let’s look at a sequence to work on the vishvamanyasa, including simple arm balances and preparations for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose).

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)

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

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle 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)
• 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

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the arms Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

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

Dwi Hasta Bhujasana (Both Hands and Arms Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• Feet on the seat of a chair place against a wall, if possible. Failing that, feet once again on blocks.
• Arms loosely belted to keep the arm and shoulder organized.

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• The full pose from the floor if possible, but otherwise propped as needed.

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

Pashasana (Noose 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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Practice Lab: Working with an Advanced Practice from "Light on Yoga", Part 2 [Light on Yoga]

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

Let’s look a little deeper at our advanced practice and see how it is broken down:

[Inversions]
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)
Bakasana (Crow 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)
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)


[Inverted Back Bends]
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)
Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)


[Advanced Baby Back Bends]
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)

[Groin and Hamstring Openers]
Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)
Samakonasana (Straight Angle Pose)
Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)


[Deep Hip Openers]
Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose)
Mulabandhasana (Root Lock Pose)
Kandasana (Knot Pose)


[Twists]
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)
Pashasana (Noose Pose)
Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Full Lord of the Fishes Pose)


[Deep Forward Bends]
Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)
Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Two Legs Behind the Head Pose)
Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)


Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


Break Down
  • The inversions go first, getting the important business of the practice out of the way, toning and balancing the nervous system while activating and integrating the various body parts into a stable whole.
  • Following that comes the Arm Balance/Back Bend Vishamanyasa, which is vigorous and challenging and relatively basic and superficial when you take into consideration the much deeper back bends, forward bends and twists that are to come. Many of the basic ranges of motion that will be practiced later on are included here in the context of strength and cohesion.
  • Then come the deep inverted back bends. In some ways, these are much more challenging than the advanced baby back bends that follow. Having the arms and legs on the ground, however, does make it easier to organize the organs of action to support the trunk, using gravity against which to arch the back and extend the spine.
  • In the advanced baby back bends it is then possible to take advantage of the organization and openness of the previous section to go deeper into these poses which requires more active use of the spinal extensor muscles to lift the trunk against the pull of gravity.
  • Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose) and the other deep groin and hamstring openers then act as a bridge between the back bends and the forward bends to come. The front of the body is still being lengthened while the backs of the legs and the buttocks are beginning to be opened up.
  • The deep hip openers require extreme outward rotation of the thigh in the hip socket. This acts as both a release for the back bends that came before, softening up the buttocks and lower back, and a preparation for the deep twists and forward bends to come.
  • The three twists get progressively deeper, requiring more fluidity across the back of the pelvis and lower back, and deeper suppleness in the rib cage until the final twist requires the addition of the single Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg. This is, in turn, a preparation for the deep forward bends.
  • The deep forward bends involve both an extreme outward rotation of the hip coupled with an extreme flexion of the spine to get the feet behind the head. The final forward bend lengthens the spine out again before Shavasana (Corpse Pose).

A Simplified Sequence

Here is a super-basic expression of the above schema, simplifying and limiting the scope of the poses, to get a general sense of the ranges of motion exercised in the practice:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes

Halasana(Plough Pose)
• 3 minutes.

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over a chair

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose) with the feet on blocks or a chair

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair

Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

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

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Adho Mukha Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)

Ankle to Knee Pose

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Bharadwajasana (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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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 1 [Light on Yoga]

In the back of “Light on Yoga” by B. K. S. Iyengar is a series of progressive courses that start from the most basic and go to the most advanced. The courses are arranged in practices that the yogin is supposed to repeat over a number of weeks, adjusting the sequence according to time and capacity. Sometimes I like to be completely brainless and just follow a program without thought and let the sequence tell me what it requires, sometimes I like to follow my own path and investigate a particular action or pose as inspiration takes me. And sometimes I like to walk a middle path. I was looking through the courses for inspiration for what to teach this week and I found a rather fun sequence which features a bunch of stuff that is well within my capacity and a bunch of stuff that is massively beyond my capabilities.

As I was editing this down into something I could teach my intermediate groups, I thought it might be fun to stick with this practice for a while and experiment with breaking it up and modifying it to unpack its secrets. In the book he calls for doing this for 25 weeks (week 201 to 225 of the complete 300 week epic). I doubt very much that I’ll stick with it for that long.

The Sequence (from p.483 of the Schocken edition)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Cockerel Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)

Parshva Kukkutasana (Side Cockerel Pose)

Viparita Chakrasana (Inverted Wheel Pose)

Bakasana (Crow 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)

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)

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)

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

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)

Hanumanasana (Hanuman’s Pose)

Samakonasana (Straight Angle Pose)

Supta Trivikramasana (Reclined Three Strides Pose)

Yogadandasana (Yoga Staff Pose)

Mulabandhasana (Root Lock 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)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Two Legs Behind the Head Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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


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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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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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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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Practice Lab: Head Stand Variations and Restorative

With all of this intense practice of late, I found I needed a bit of a break from the 10 to 20 Urdhva Dhanurasanas (Upward Bow Pose) at the end of each practice that Mr. Iyengar calls for in his sequences in “Light on Yoga”. The following is a semi-restorative sequence that includes the different arm-variations of Shirshasana (Head Stand). Whenever I’ve had them taught to me, we’ve always come into Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1) and then changed arm position while balancing. I’ve never been able to do that very well, so I thought I would look and see how he recommends doing it in the book. (I just realized that whenever you talk to an Iyengar yoga practitioner, you will always hear us referring to “he” and “the book” without further explanation. It’s a cultural shorthand where it’s a given we are always talking about Iyengar and Light on Yoga.)

In LoY he presents a variation of Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1) where you pinch the fingers together, turn the fingers up and touch the shoulders. It forces you to really reach through the shoulders and engage the upper back muscles to preserve the balance. After that, each arm variation is presented coming into the pose from the floor, so I thought I would try it. It makes a huge difference. The arm and upper back strength required to come up prepares the body for balance in the pose itself. The only one I was not able to come fully up in was Mukta Hasta Shirshasana (Free Hand Head Stand). I only made it up into Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose), which is still something. Probably if I had done this variation first, when I was fresher, I might have made it up.

The Sequence

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a roll under the neck for neck traction
• 5 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Virasana (Hero Pose) with arm variations:
• Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana Upward Bound Fingers Pose).
• Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) arms.
• Pashchima Namaskarasana (Reverse Prayer Pose).

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 2 minutes in the regular pose.
• 1 minute with the fingers pinched, touching the shoulders.
• 2 minutes in the regular pose with the second interlock of the fingers.

Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds.

Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds.

Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds each crossing.

Mukta Hasta Shirshasana (Free Hand Head Stand)
• From the floor.
• 30 seconds.

Supta Virasana (Hero Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Legs bound in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose).
• Lying back over a bolster across the back.
• 2 minutes each crossing.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Over a bolster, legs bound with a belt.
• 5 minutes.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Over a bolster.
• 5 minutes.

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on 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

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 10 minutes.


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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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Practice Lab: Drop-Backs and Arm Balances (from "Light on Yoga")

In our giddy folly of enthusiastic exploration, we decided to have a go at this sequence from “Light on Yoga”, which includes both drop-backs from Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) and arm balances. Kristen did well with the drop-backs but, to be truthful, they scare the crap out of me. I tried it once or twice, once with a spot, once to a Halasana bench, but I wussed out the first time, and had a brain spasm the second and tweaked my shoulder. So I did drop-backs from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on the ropes instead. I maintain that I’m a 6’2”, 185lb., clumsy guy and that I don’t have the openness in my back and chest yet to do them properly. Kristen thinks I need to just suck it up and own my size and figure it out. I think she’s probably right. Something else to work on.

This sequence is adapted from the one that appears on page 472 of the Schocken edition of “Light on Yoga”. Be warned that it takes a good 2 1/2 to 3 hours to perform.

The Sequence

Shirshasana Cycle:
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
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

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Padma Mayurasana (Lotus Peacock Pose)

Nakrasana (Crocodile Pose)
• This poses involves coming into Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose) and hopping forward five times, then back five times.

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)
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)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

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 the other.

Anantasana (Vishnu’s Couch Pose)

Uttanapadasana (Stretched Out Upward Facing Pose)

Setubandhasana (Bridge Lock Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) and back up into Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
OR
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from and into Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
• Do 12 of these.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the Arms Pose)

Ashtavakrasana (Ashtavakra’s Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Pashchimottanasana (Revolved Intense West Stretch Pose)

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)

Akarna Dhanurasana (Bow to the Ear Pose)

Padmasana Cycle:
Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)
Tolasana (Scales Pose)
Simhasana 2 (Lion Pose 2)
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Urdhva Kukkutasana (Upward Cockerel Pose)
Garbha Pindasana (Embryo in the Womb Pose)
Gorakshasana (Cowherd Pose)
Baddha Padmasana (Bound Lotus Pose)
Yoga Mudrasana (Yoga Seal Pose)
Supta Vajrasana (Reclined Thunderbolt Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Bhekasana (Frog Pose)

Supta Virasana (reclined hero 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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Practice Lab: Core Poses (from "Light on Yoga")

I think I’m starting to develop a full-blown obsession with Mr. Iyengar’s sequences in the back of “Light on Yoga”. After a week of teaching a modified, simplified version of last week’s Practice Lab (see this week’s intermediate group class to be posted this Thursday), I’m starting to see how these sequences work. Remarkably, they seem to be all about core strength and organization. I thought I’d try a few more of them over the next few weeks. Here’s a slight modification of the next day’s sequence, day 6 from course 2, on page 474 of the Schocken edition of the book. This practice is more straightforwardly about core strength, featuring long holdings in the inversions, boat poses and twists.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• In the book he calls for 15 minutes, I was only able to do 7 as my neck is a little weak at the moment.

Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• 1 minute.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose 1
Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana 1 (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose 1)
• As illustrated.
• 1 minute.

Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)
• 1 minute.

Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)
• 30 seconds.

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Krounchasana (Heron Pose)
• 20 seconds.

Malasana (Garland Pose)
• Mr. Iyengar class for Kurmasana (Turtle Pose) here, but I find it usually does a number on my sacrum, so I substituted.
• 1 minute.

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose)
• If, like me, you have troubles with this pose as well, do a preparation by placing the feet on a block or bolster with the heels touching. Open the legs up into a square shape, as if you were going to go all the way though them into the full pose. Instead, however, hold onto the feet and extend the trunk forward.
• 1 minute.

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes 1)
• 30 seconds.

Pashasana (Noose Pose)
• 1 minute.

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (HAnd Stand)
• 1 minute.

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
• I was unable to hold the balance for the full time, so I did the pose with the feet on the floor.
• 1 minute.

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
• 6 times, holding for 20 to 30 seconds each time.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 10 to 15 minutes.


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Practice Lab: Inversions and Arm Balances (from "Light on Yoga")

I was in my usual state of exhaustion after teaching my Sunday classes and fishing around for something to practice when, to my surprise, I realized I was in the mood to do arm balances. I thought I might open up the courses in the back of “Light on Yoga” and see how Mr. Iyengar sequences them. They don’t show up all that often, and only then in the later and more advanced sequences. I did find a practice that looked rather fun with a bunch of Head Stand and Shoulder Stand variations, along with a couple of other poses that I don’t usually practice. The whole thing took about 90 minutes, but I was whipping through most of the poses.

The sequencing, as is often the case, is quite different from the way things usually get laid out these days, but it worked beautifully. I was happy to see the arm balances come after Shoulder Stand and forward bends, as I’ve found myself sequencing them that way lately myself. I had to modify it a little bit here and there to suit my abilities. It’s challenging, no doubt, but not nearly as insurmountable as you might think. (Be warned, though: it’s a bit wrist-y.) You can find the original sequence on p.474 of the Schocken edition. It’s day five of the seven day sequence at the end of course 2.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart and hands flat on blocks
• The sequence in the book launches straight into Head Stand without so much as a by-your-leave. I usually need a little more wining and dining before I get to the main event.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
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)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Parshva Baddha Konasana (Side Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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)
• These were all done on a standard 3-blanket set up.

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on 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
• In the book, you go straight through to the second part of the Shoulder Stand cycle without stopping, but I needed a little extra prep before the Padmasanas (Lotus Poses) showed up.

Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) drop-back
• In the book the above two are reversed.
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)
Parshva Padmasana (Side Lotus Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Parshva Pindasana (Side Embryo Pose)
• For this second half of the cycle, I used a single blanket under the shoulders to make the balance and the drop-backs easier.

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)
• He presents these variations in a different order in the book from the way they usually seem to be sequenced these days.
• Do the whole cycle all on one leg, then the other.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
Parivrtta Pashchimottanasana (Revolved Intense West Stretch Pose)

Kurmasana (Turtle Pose)
Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• I had to throw this in here because I find the turtle poses are not so good for my psoas and sacrum. This helped to lengthen and balance everything out again.

Bhujapidasana (Pressure on the Arms Pose)

Ashtavakrasana (Ashtavakra’s Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Padma Mayurasana (Lotus Peacock Pose)
• I did this with the legs in Baddha Konasana instead.

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Lolasana (Tremulous Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) 15 to 20 times
• Yes, that’s right: 15 to 20 times! I did 15, but no more than exhaling up/inhaling down. They weren’t the best Urdhva Dhanurasanas I’ve ever done, but they felt surprisingly good.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• This I did for about 15 minutes.


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Practice Lab: Vamadevasana 2

We sort of made this sequence up as we went along, but it turned out to be remarkably restorative. Vamadeva is the name of the aspect of Shiva that is the preserver, is female in gender and associated with the element of water.

The Sequence


[Do the following sequence all in one go, keeping the head down throughout]
Rope Shirshasana
Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• Place the hands on the floor, push up half way.
• Untangle the legs from the ropes and press all the way up into Hand Stand.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

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

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)

Pigeon Pose forward bend

Pigeon Pose forward bend
• Place a thin mat or blanket roll under the front ankle.

Pigeon Pose forward bend
• Increase the height under the front ankle.

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose 1) with Bhekasana (Frog Pose) back leg

Vamadevasana 2 (Vamadeva’s Pose 2)
• We found it extremely helpful to start in Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2) with the Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg high on the opposite thigh and the foot aiming at the navel. Keeping that height, then think more of pressing the Bhekasana foot down onto the other.
• It’s also helpful to lean really far over onto the greater trochanter of the Padmasana leg.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Pashasana (Noose Pose) facing the wall
• Place the hands on the wall, both for support and to help deepen the twist.

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose)
• 5 min.

Ardha Pindasana (Half Embryo Pose)
• With your Ardha Halasana set-up, cross the legs into Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and rest them on the chair.
• 60-90 sec each crossing.

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Separating the Ilio-Psoas

This week’s practice was not particularly complicated in terms of the poses I worked on, but I ended up focusing on quite a high level of detail. I’ve always had trouble in my sacrum, psoas and pelvic floor, and the whole area has been particularly troublesome in the past few weeks. I went to Phoenix to teach the fine folks at Gravity Center and the air travel pretty much did me in, hence all the attention to the lower body of late.

Ideally, as you go through the sequence keep in mind all of the factors presented here. If, however, you are only beginning to become familiar with this area and it’s too much to focus on straight away, work with one or two of the ideas, building up slowly. I’ve arranged the actions in an ordered progression, from what should be mastered first to finishing touches.

In essence, we are balancing the movement around the hip joint by anchoring through the femur head (top of the thigh bone) and balancing the work of the ilio-psoas muscles.

The Lesser Trochanters and the Hip Joint

First we need to stabilize the base. Strengthen and anchor the legs by moving the lesser trochanters in each of the following directions:
  • Move them away from each other.
  • Move them away from the midline of the body.
  • Move them towards the feet or the floor.
In some poses, these might all be the same direction, depending on the arrangement of the legs. When working with the lesser trochanters there is often a tendency to roll the thighs in as well, so make sure to keep the hip creases (where the thigh and abdomen meet) and the buttock creases (where the buttocks and hamstrings meet) evenly wide.

With the femurs properly grounded, center the weight evenly around the entirety of both hip joints. You might think of the wall of connective tissue that wraps the joint, balancing the weight around it. Just this part can requite a huge amount of vigilance, as we often have habitual movement patterns in the hips an legs that are very easy to fall back into unawares.

The Iliacus and the Psoas

Think of separating these two muscles. Strengthen and lengthen the psoas up the length of the body from the lesser trochanters towards the head. Think of widening the iliacus outwards away from the psoas and down towards the lesser trochanters.

In addition, to create spaciousness in the lower back, think of moving both muscles back, away from the front body.

When working with the psoas, people who tend to be more tucked back in the pelvis may well have to lengthen down through the lesser trochanters more as they draw up and back through the psoas. People who tend to be more tilted forward may have to draw up and widen back away from the lesser trochanters more.

The Pelvic Floor and the Lower Ribs

Soften and widen the fan of the pelvic floor as evenly as possible. Draw up the length of the body towards the head from behind the pubic bone. Soften and widen the lower ribs from the xyphoid process around and back towards the spine.

Once you have each of these actions working, build them up in your poses and cycle through them one to three times in each pose.

Additional Thoughts

For variety, you might also think of working with the psoas major and minor, lengthening the fibers of psoas major down towards the feet and psoas minor up towards the head (or reversing it if that works for you, perhaps if you are more tucked). Working with just psoas major, you could direct the lower fibers (say from L3 down) forward and down towards the feet while drawing the upper fibers (L2 to T12) up towards the head, or vice versa if it suits your body more.

The Sequence

Vrkshasana (Tree Pose) with the knee at the wall

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Upright variation.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Triangle Pose variation with the standing foot a little further out and turned in.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Foot on a rope wall hook or some other ledge.
• Forward bend variation.
• If you can, put more height under the foot to make it above hip height.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Padangusthasana (Bog Toe Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1)

[Perform the following Supta Padangusthasana sequence all on one leg, then all on the other]
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) raised head variation

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

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)
Parshva Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on 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.

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Reclined Big Toe Pose 1
Today’s practice involves a combination of reclined poses and Padmasana (Lotus Pose) as a preparation for inversion variations.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Reclined big Toe Pose 2
[Perform the following Supta Padangusthasana sequence all on one leg, then all on the other]
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)
Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)
Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1) raised head variation

Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand) at the wall
• 2 repetitions.

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand) in the middle of the room
• 2 repetitions.

Recliend Big Toe Pose 3
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Revolved Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Sing Leg Head Stand)
Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Head Stand)
Parshvaikapada Shirshasana (Single Leg to the Side Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Reclined Big Toe Pose 1 (variation)

[Do each of the following three hip openers all on 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.

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Ardha Padmasana (Downward Facing Half Lotus Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)
• Do the bound variation for 30 seconds or so, then unbind and reach forward to take hold of the extended foot.

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation, lying back flat with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)
[Do this Padmasana series all the way through on both sides with the legs crossed one way, then the other]
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)
Parshva Pindasana (Side Embryo Pose)
Parshva Padmasana (Side Lotus Pose)
Eka Pad Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Single Leg Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) Drop-Back
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose in Shoulder Stand) Drop-Back
• 3 repetitions.
Halasana (Plough Pose) with the arms overhead holding the feet

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Side Bharadwaja's Pose over a bolster
This practice is a continuation of the ideas of a few weeks ago where we were releasing the ribcage. In addition, we will be dividing the trunk into four different segments, creating softness and fluidity in each.

The Sequence


Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on ropes
• Come into the pose clasping the elbows with the arms and head resting on the support of a bolster and blankets stacked up to a comfortable height.
• Soften and widen the wall of the latissimus dorsi across the back ribs. Lengthen the outer armpits towards the elbows.
• With each exhalation, allow the rib cage to retract inwards, separating away from the latissimus in a soft and even manner.
• Soften the intracostal muscles
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Come into the pose with a bolster across the back, supporting the lower back ribs.
• Soften and widen the wall of the lower front ribs away from the xyphoid process (the bottom tip of the sternum).
• With each exhalation, allow the rib cage to retract inwards, separating away from the wall of connective tissue between the front ribs and the skin.
• Soften the intracostal muscles
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Rope Shirshasana (Hanging Head Stand)
• Soften and widen the walls of the front ribs and the latissimus.
• With the exhalations allow the entire ribcage to retract inwards away from the front and back walls of the body.
• Soften the intracostal muscles
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• As above.
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose)
• As above.
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• Allow the exhalations to soften and lengthen, getting slightly longer than the inhalations.
• Observe the diaphragm and allow it to release completely as you exhale so that the inhalations can be completely reflexive.
• Soften and widen the very top band of the chest below the collarbones.
• Hold for 3 to 5 min.

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)
• Soften and widen the upper back, spreading and releasing the wall of soft tissue between the shoulder blades.
• Hold for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose)
• Soften the entire back body, but especially the full expanse of the latissimus, from the back of the sacrum to the outer armpits.
• As you exhale, allow the back body to fall away from the wall of the latissimus as a whole.
• Hold for 5 min.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Allow the exhalations to soften and lengthen, getting slightly longer than the inhalations.
• Observe the diaphragm and allow it to release completely as you exhale so that the inhalations can be completely reflexive.
• Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Ujjayi 4 is a full and expansive breath in a reclined position where the exhalations are slightly longer than the inhalations.
• Place a belt loosely around the waist with the buckle just below the navel. Narrow it just enough to give you feedback, but not enough to restrict the breath.
• Without pushing the breath into the abdomen, observe how the waist expands and releases into and away from the belt as you breath. Soften the circumference of the waist to allow the movement to be completely even in all directions.
• Allow the lower and upper abdomens to separate out in your awareness on either side of the belt.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Reposition the belt so that it is around the rib cage at the level of the xyphoid process. Soften and balance the movement into and away from the belt as you breath.
• Allow the upper abdomen/lower rib area and the mid chest to separate out in your awareness on either side of the belt.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Reposition the belt so that it is around the top chest, just under the armpits. Soften and balance the movement into and away from the belt as you breath.
• Allow the mid and upper chest to separate out in your awareness on either side of the belt.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viloma Pranayama 1 (Interrupted Breath 1) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Viloma 1 is a full inhalation broken up into 3 to 5 separate and equal volumes with a brief and easy pause before a long, easy exhalation, done in a reclined position.
• In this case, divide the breath up into 3 segments, expanding into each of the three areas we worked on in Ujjayi Pranayama.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viloma Pranayama 2 (Interrupted Breath 1) in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Viloma 1 is a full exhalation broken up into 3 to 5 separate and equal volumes with a brief and easy pause before a full, easy inhalation, done in a reclined position.
• In this case, divide the breath up into 3 segments, releasing away from each of the three areas we worked on in Ujjayi Pranayama.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Allow the exhalations to soften and lengthen, getting slightly longer than the inhalations.
• Observe the diaphragm and allow it to release completely as you exhale so that the inhalations can be completely reflexive.
• Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.

Ujjayi Pranayama 8 (Victorious Breath 8) in any comfortable seated position
• Ujjayi 8 is similar to Ujjayi 4, except that it is performed seated upright.
• Practice this in 3 stages, just as when reclined, with the belt in each position.
• Practice each stage for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viloma Pranayama 4 (Interrupted Breath 4) in any comfortable seated position
• Viloma 4 is similar to Viloma 1, except that it is performed seated upright.
• Practice this as you did when reclined, in 3 segments expanding into each band and maintaining the independent separation of each part.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Viloma Pranayama 4 (Interrupted Breath 4) in any comfortable seated position
• Viloma 4 is similar to Viloma 2, except that it is performed seated upright.
• Practice this as you did when reclined, in 3 segments releasing each area and maintaining the independent separation of each part.
• Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Allow the exhalations to soften and lengthen, getting slightly longer than the inhalations.
• Observe the diaphragm and allow it to release completely as you exhale so that the inhalations can be completely reflexive.
• Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.


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Practice Lab

Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose
Once again, Kristen and I found ourselves both exhausted. (A common occurrence for yoga teachers in the city, it seems.) I just got back from teaching a workshop out of town and Kristen has an infant (no more reason needed). We wanted to do something more than just flopping around, but we needed a practice that had a strong restorative effect, so we opted to do forward bends. While we were practicing, we were discussing how when the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) is active, the back of the neck grips. Kristen had the idea of doing the poses with the head well supported and a sandbag on the back of the skull. Boy, was that effective. We both felt like we’d woken up from a deep nap. The key is to make sure the the head is firmly supported with enough height underneath it that the sandbag puts no pressure on the back of the neck.

The Sequence:

Rope Shirshasana (Head Stand)
• 5 minutes.

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

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose) with the toes on the chair
• 2 minutes.

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose) with the thighs on the chair
• 3 minutes.

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)
• 2 minutes each side.

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)
• Head on support and weighted with a sandbag.
• 2 minutes each side.

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)
• Head on support and weighted with a sandbag.
• 2 minutes each side.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose) unbound variation
• Head on support and weighted with a sandbag.
• 2 minutes each side.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Loop a belt around the base of the skull and the balls of the feet to draw the head down.

Adho Mukha Virasana (Downward Facing Hero Pose)
• Head on support and weighted with a sandbag.
• 2 minutes.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• Head on support and weighted with a sandbag.
• 2 minutes.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) on support
• Have he kidneys on the edge of the support so they can get toned.
• We did this with the body supported by two chairs and blankets and bolsters under the head, neck and arms. By the time we had built ourselves up, however, we could have just used a bolster and a couple of blankets.
• 5 minutes.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with the legs on a chair
• 5 to 10 minutes.


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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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Practice Lab

Four Feet Pose
Sometimes when I’m practicing I don’t like to think too much. It can be nice to let the sequence and the poses take over and tell you what you need to be paying attention to in your body as you practice. I had one of those days last week and ended up practicing this sequence. Other than the first Down Dog, Head Stand and Viparita Karani don’t hold the poses for too long, no more than 30 seconds. Though it’s not really a vinyasa sequence, do your best to flow smoothly from pose to pose, adding props minimally where necessary.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Arms stretched out to the floor.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Elbows clasped behind the back, both crossings.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose)
• Arm stretched out alongside the ears as if in Adho Mukha Shvanasana.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose)
• Elbows clasped behind the back, both crossings.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
• 2 to 3 min.
Baddha Konasana in Shirshasana (Bound Angle Pose in Head Stand)
• 30 to 60 sec.
Upavistha Konasana in Shirshasana (Seated Angle Pose in Head Stand)
• 30 to 60 sec.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) to the right
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1) to the left

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) right leg on top/left arm on top
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) to the right
Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) left leg on top/right arm on top
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) to the left

Malasana (Garland Pose) with the arms reaching forward
Pashasana (Noose Pose) to the right
Malasana (Garland Pose) with the arms reaching forward
Pashasana (Noose Pose) to the left

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) folding forward
Malasana (Garland Pose) clasping the ankles
Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) with the left leg bent
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) folding forward
Malasana (Garland Pose) clasping the ankles
Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) with the right leg bent

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) folding forward
Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) with the left leg bent
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) folding forward
Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) with the right leg bent

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2) to the right
Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch pose) with the right leg bent
Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2) to the left
Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch pose) with the left leg bent

Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 (Half Lord of the Fishes 2) with the left leg in Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2) with the left leg in Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 (Half Lord of the Fishes 2) with the right leg in Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2) with the right leg in Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)
• See the above photo.

Reclined ankle-to-knee glute stretch
• Both sides.

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Both sides.

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 to 10 min.


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Practice Lab

Marichi's pose 1 (Bound Twist Variation)
Pectoralis Major and Latissimus Dorsi have an interesting relationship with each other. Though one is high on the body and in front and the other low and in back, they meet on the upper arm bone deep in the armpit. When working these poses, think of the following actions:
  • Widen the lats and the pecs as evenly as possible. Widen also the palms.
  • Soften and deepen the armpit as you soften and widen the deltoids around the shoulder joint.
  • When twisting to the right, initiate the movement by widening the right deltoid and the left lat. Reverse this when twisting to the left.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back over a bolster arranged across the back.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Do the pose with a block between the thighs.
• Set yourself up close to a wall so that you can place your elbows and forearms on the wall without leaning forward any more than you would normally be in the pose.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Do the pose with the elbows clasped behind the back.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on blocks.

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Simple variation with the Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg in Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) and binding with a belt around the foot and over the Virasana (Hero Pose) thigh.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Full pose.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• With the hands on blocks.

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)
• Bind the arms in the pose.
• Only twist away from the bent leg, do not go forward into the full pose.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Bind the arms in the pose.

Marichyasana 5 (Marichi’s Pose 5)
• Bind the arms in the pose.
• Only twist away from the bent leg, do not go forward into the full pose.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Bind the arms in the pose.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster or a bench

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) on a chair

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• Hold the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ujjayi 4 (Victorious Breath 4) in Shavasana

Ujjayi 8 (Victorious Breath 8) in any comfortable seated pose
• Tennis balls in the armpits to support the arms.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
• 5 minutes.


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Practice Lab

Single Leg Galava's Pose
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) over a bolster across the back

Utthita Hasta Padasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) with the raised foot on ropes or a ledge
• Upright and forward bend variation

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand to Big Tie Pose) with the raised foot on ropes or a ledge

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)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwajasana’s Pose 2)
• Simple variation with leg in Janushirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) and binding with a belt.
• Full pose.

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Supta Kurmasana (Sleeping Turtle Pose) preparation with feet on bolster
• Make a square shape with the legs, place the feet up on a bolster and fold forward.

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Eka Pada Galavasana (Single Leg Galava’s Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Eka Pada Galavasana (Single Leg Galava’s Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Head Stand 1 DetailHead Stand 2 DetailHead Stand 3 DetailBound Hands Head Stand DetailFree Hand Head Stand Detail

This time, Kristen and I decided to work on the advanced head stand variations. Kristen had the idea of balancing out the front and back across the shoulder girdle by widen both the broad fibers of the trapezius and the pec minor/eyes of the chest.

The Sequence

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2) with the leg on a bolster

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2) with the leg resting on the floor

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Ropes 1, 5-8 rounds

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Ropes 1, 5-8 rounds

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Ubhaya Padangusthasana (Both Big Toes Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)
• lift the head up to touch the raised shin.

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi’s Pose 6)

Urdhva Mukha Pashchimottanasana 1 (Upward Facing Intense West Stretch Pose 1)

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

Prasarita Padottanasana (Widespread Feet Pose) with Head Stand arm variations
• Shirshasana 1
• Shirshasana 2
• Shirshasana 3
• Baddha Hasta Shirshasana
• Mukta Hasta Shirshasana

Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1) free standing

Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2) free standing

Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3) against the wall
Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand) against the wall
Mukta Hasta Shirshasana (Free Hand Head Stand) against the wall

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Niralamba Sarvangasana (Unsupported Shoulder Stand) against the wall
Karnapidasana (Pressure on the Ear Pose) against the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

Side Shoulder Stand
Like many people, I have a slew of imbalances that plague me. It’s always the same three or four things that are linked, and that go through cycles of being more or less aggravated. When they do flare up, it’s usually a sign that’s something has shifted and everything else is gripping like mad while the body figures out what it’s supposed to be doing. At times like these, I find it best to batten down the hatches and modify my practice accordingly until things sort themselves out. It’s much less crazy-making that way.

Right now my chest and side are incredibly tight and it’s pulling on my shoulder to the point where the muscles there are weak and over-burdened. So I came up with this practice that includes a lot of side stretches, twists and chest-openers to help create some space in the body.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) on the ropes

Side stretch over a bolster

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) with a bolster across the back

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) With the arms unbound

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)

Ropes 1--8-10 rounds

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Leg supported by a bolster.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Rolling all the way to the side so that the leg is resting on the floor.

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Shoulder Stand
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Side Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Setu Bandha (Single Leg Bridge Pose) from drop-back
Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) from drop-back

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

Maha Mudra (Great Seal)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 2 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 2)

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

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

side embryo in shoulder stand
Iyengar nerds always tend to have tons of pieces of paper about the place with sequences scribbled on them. Sequences from classes they’ve taken, or ones from classes taught by other teachers that get passed around. Kristen and I have had an idea about trying to figure out a good sequence to teach/learn dropping back from Tadasana (Mountain Pose) into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose), but neither of us have quite been ready for it yet, so once again (third week in a row!) we found ourselves looking around for something else to practice. We came across a practice on a handout with a few different sequences leading into Padmasana (Lotus Pose) from different sources. We settled on a practice that I think was given by Geeta Iyengar and recorded by teacher Kathy Curran.

We modified it a bit in a couple of places, and I’ve never been able to do Padmasana in Head Stand, so I’ve included my modifications there. It turned out to be a really great practice that did wonders for the hips and ankles as well.

The Practice

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
• Seated upright only.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Leg supported by a bolster.

Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
• Full pose with forward bend.

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Rolling all the way to the side so that the leg is resting on the floor.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Foot up on a rope hook.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)
• Foot up on a rope hook.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
• Full pose.

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 2)
• Full pose.

Utthita Bhekasana (Extended Frog Pose) at wall
• Stand with the back to the wall, one leg bent and tucked in behind you with the top of the foot against the wall.
• My quads are really tight, so I did a varition facing into the wall first, pressing the foot of the bent leg towards the hip.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus INtense Stretch pose) at wall
• Instead of going all the way forward into the full pose, stand upright with the back against the wall.
• Place one foot on the top of the opposite thigh and length.
• Lengthen the thigh down, the body up.

Eka Pada Bhekasana (Single Leg Frog Pose)

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
• Sit with the toes together and the heels rolling out, the buttocks resting on the soles of the feet.

Virasana/Parvatasana (Hero Pose/Mountain Pose)

Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose)

Dandasana into Janu Shirshasana (Staff Pose into Head of the Knee Pose)

Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in head stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in head stand
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose) or Baddha Konasana
Parshva Padmasana (Side Lotus Pose) or Parshva Baddha Konasana (Side Bound Angle Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) either in Padmasana or Baddha Konasana

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
Urdhva Padmasana (Upward Lotus Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Parshva Pindasana (Side Embryo Pose) with bolsters on either side of the head on which to rest the knees.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

fish pose
We were a little all over the place in our practice today. This sequence has a bunch of standing poses and Padmasana (Lotus Pose) variations. We were a little short of time and skipped the inversions, but I’ve added them in to make the sequence more balanced. If the standing poses seem a little random, we took the first fourteen or fifteen poses from Light on Yoga and alternated one from the end of the list with one from the top of the list, working our way to the middle. We left out Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) because neither of us could face it.

The Sequence

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Supta Virasana (Hero Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on the ropes

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2) with the raised leg supported by a bolster

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2) with the raised leg all the way down on the ground

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parighasana (Gate Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 2 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 2)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Wide Spread Feet Pose 1)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 and 2 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1 and 2)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Virasana (Hero Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Kurmasana (Turtle Pose) preparation--folding forward with the soles of the feet together and away from the bodywithout bringing the arms under the legs

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Adho Mukha Ardha Padmasana (Downward Facing Half Lotus Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padma Pashchimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Baddha Padmasana (Bound Lotus Pose)

Adho Mukha Padmasana (Downward Facing Lotus Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

marichi's pose B
I’ve been watching footage of Mr. Iyengar do poses recently, and I’ve been amazed at how mobile his trunk is, especially in twists. Most of us need to use the arms and legs to help crank the torso around, but Iyengar is able to create movement in the trunk itself in a fluid and supple manner. It’s very impressive. Kristen and I thought we might have a go at combining pranayama with binding in twists to see if we could create mobility in the trunk. We didn’t quite have the time to do all of this sequence, but I’ve included the inversions to present a more rounded practice. I should state that doing pranayama first is highly unorthodox in Iyengar terms, but then that’s how we roll at Yogasana.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shavasana (Downward Facing Corpse Pose) over a bolster (7 min)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose) with a sandbag along the sternum (7 min)

Ujjayi 4 (Victorious Breath 4) (5 min)

Viloma 1 (Interrupted Breath 1) (5 min)

Viloma 2 (Interrupted Breath 2) (5 min)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) on the ropes

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended hand to Big Toe Pose 1) at the rope wall with the raised leg supported

Parivrrta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose) at the rope wall with the raised leg supported

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the hands down

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Parivrttaikapada Shirshasana (Revolved Single Leg Head Stand)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only, no binding

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3) no binding

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2) no binding

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4) no binding

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2)

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) over a bolster (3 min each side)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab

free hand head stand
I’ve been working with this new idea in my classes about using the elbows to release the shoulders and the head to release the neck.

We carry a lot of emotion in the shoulders and, as a result, the muscles in the shoulders and neck become very reactive. It can be hard to work with the neck and shoulders directly. Consider the following ideas as you go through the following variations:

For the shoulders:
• Think of balancing the elbow joint: stretch evenly through the tip of the elbow and the inner elbow (eye of the elbow)
• As you stretch the arms, instead of stretching through the shoulder joint, think of widening the floating ribs and stretching the shoulder joint away from them.
• Do not over rotate the shoulder joint when the arm is straight. Keep it in line with the webbing between index finger and thumb.

For the neck:
• Soften the roof of the mouth and dome it up towards the skull.
• When turning the head, turn it around the doming roof of the mouth.
• Soften and hollow out the eye sockets. Releaser the back of the neck by slightly pivoting the eye sockets down the length of the body around the eyeballs. (This is an idea form my friend Kristen.)

This is really only the tip of the iceberg of this idea thats been developing as I teach and work with it. If you’re interested in exploring it further, look out for the Intermediate Class Post later in the week.

The sequence:

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
• Lie back with the bolster across the back rather than along it.
• Support the head and arms as necessary.

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Block(s) under the pelvis, legs straight and feet at wall.
• Belt wrists.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• On ropes if available.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrsana (Half Moon Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Vashisthasana 1 (Vashistha’s Pose 1)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Vashisthasana 2 (Vashistha’s Pose 2)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1) INTO Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
• Spend some time in both poses to establish the actions well.
• Come out of Shirshasana by returning to Prasarita Padottanasana

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Salamba Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3)
Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand)
Mukta Hasta Shirshasana (Free Hands Head Stand)
Baddha Hasta Shirshasana (Bound Hands Head Stand) second interlock of arms
Salamba Shirshasana 3 (Head Stand 3)
Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1) second interlock of fingers
• Do all these at a stretch, holding for 10-30 seconds on each side.
• Do poses with feet resting on wall to help balance

Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) over chair

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)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

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Practice Lab

intense stretch lotus peacock pose
Uttana Padma Mayurasana (Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose) Is a very powerful pose that I am quite a way from being able to practice properly, yet for some reason I have ambition to achieve it one day, which I’m sure is not such a good thing yogicly speaking... Here’s a practice I was working on to take me towards it. I couldn’t find any creative commons pictures of the pose, so here’s a shot of me getting about as far into it as I’m able. In the full pose you touch your knees to the floor.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Virabhadrsana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Supta Padangusthasana 3 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 3)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense West Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Padmasana (Downward Facing Lotus Pose)

Yoga Mudrasana (Yoga Seal Pose)

Gorakshasana (Cow Herd Pose)

Simhasana 2 (Lion Pose 2)

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Uttana Padma Mayurasana (Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose) variation with block under sacrum

Laghuvajrasana (Little Thunderbolt Pose) over chair

Padmasana Viparita Dandasana (Lotus Pose in Inverted Staff Pose) over chair

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Urdhva Padmasana Sarvangasana (Upward Lotus Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Parshva Padmasana (Side Lotus Pose in Shoulder Stand)

Uttana Padma Mayurasana (Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose) variation
• Set up close to the wall and drop back to put knee on wall

Uttana Padma Mayurasana (Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
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Practice Lab

marichi's pose D
One pose I have a lot of trouble with is Marichyasana 4 (also know as Marichyasana D in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system). My whole outer hip area is so thick and solid that, although I can get my legs into the right shape, I generally can’t quite bring my trunk far around to even get my elbow onto the raised leg. So, I thought this might be a good pose to tackle.

To help mobilize the gluteal area, I was working with the following ideas (the same ideas I’ve been teaching in my intermediate classes):

• Strengthening and grounding the lesser trochanters and, wherever possible, moving them away from the midline of the body
• Moving the face of the sacrum (the inner surface of the bone that faces the organs) away from the lesser trochanters into the glutes
• Softening and widening the glutes (gluteus maximus) and the lats (latissimus dorsi)
• Lengthening the Ilia (pelvic bones) from top to bottom (rim to sitting bone)

Here’s the sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose) preparation
• Bolster under the straight leg, keeping the leg bent, working on the twisting action

Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2) twist only

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Child’s Pose with arms by the sides

Eka Pada Koundinyasa 1 (Single Leg Koundinya’s Pose 1)

Vatayanasana (Horse Pose)

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (Single Leg King Pigeon Pose) forward bend/hip stretch

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

[The previous two poses were to reintegrate the back after all the forward bending and twisting.]

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

It was quite an effective sequence. I was actually able to get my elbow across the body and onto the thigh. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

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Practice Lab

crow_pose
For the past few years, my dear friend and practice partner, Kristen Davis, and I have been getting together every week on a pretty regular basis to practice and generally geek out about yoga. After a hiatus of several month while Kristen was on maternity leave, our practices were getting kind of spotty, so we launched back in with an abandon with Kristen’s idea of doing a practice where we tried to effectively sequence backbends with forward bends, usually an absolute no-no in the Iyengar system. Our first attempt, building up to linking Bakasana (Crow Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) through Salamba Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand) was moderately successful, but we didn’t quite have the opening in the mid-back to make the transition as smooth as it could be.

After some thought, I had the idea of adding a twist into the mix, which worked really well. Here’s the sequence we did:

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
Parivrtta Uttanasana (Revolved Intense Stretch Pose)
Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose) preparation only

side crow pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) simple variation with the hand on the floor inside the front leg, not outside
Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose) full pose
Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved Furious Pose)
Utkatasana (Furious Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose)
Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)
[Something about this trio didn’t seem appealing in the moment so we did the following three instead]

inverted stafpose
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1)
Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand to Big Toe Pose)
Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Ropes 1 (if you don’t have access to a rope wall, you might try a few sun salutations)
Adho Mukha Vrkshasana [Downward Facing Tree Pose]
Pincha Mayurasana [Peacock Feather Pose]
[Cycle through this trio 2-3 times]

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)
Parivrtta Janu Shirshasana (Revolved Head of the Knee Pose)
Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1)
Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Malasana (Garland Pose)
Pashasana (Noose Pose)
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
[We actually did Dhanurasana first and then Ushtrasana, but it didn’t quite work that way round. The thighs needed more opening, which they got by doing Ushtrasana first, though you might consider doing something like Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) over a chair for even more opening.]

Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Bakasana (Crow Pose)
Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)
Shirshasana 2 (Head Stand 2)
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Ardha Halasana (Half Plough Pose) over a chair

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

My reservation about this sequence was what it might do to the nervous system. I was worried I might not get to sleep that night. Turns out I slept like a baby. My back was sore the next day, as you might imagine, and I was ravenous all day, but otherwise no troubles.

Try it for yourself and report back.

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