Basic Practice: Freeing the Pelvis and Ribcage in Twists

In this twisting practice, the goal is to elongate the trunk and spine so that the pelvis and rib cage can move freely with a certain amount of independence from each other. To help this happen, focus on folding cleanly at the hip crease without collapsing the chest and rounding the back, or without pushing the chest forward and gripping the back. In each of the asymmetrical pose--be they standing, seated or reclined--allow the pelvis and the chest to turn away from each other.

The Sequence:


Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vajrasana (Downward Facing Thunderbolt Pose)

Reclined Glute Stretch

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) simple variation
• Do the pose with the knees bent and a block between them.
• Do five sets, rolling the pelvis from side to side without holding. Exhale the pelvis out to the side, inhale it back in.
• On the last set, hold the pose for several breaths on each side.

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Pashchima Baddha Hastasana (Elbows Clasped behind the Back) in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
• Do both crossings.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3) sitting up on a block or blankets

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

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 1) sitting up on a block or blankets

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) passive variation
• Lie on the floor and release into the pose.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Basic Practice: Lengthening the Sides and Across the Diagonal of the Torso

In this sequence, focus on lengthening both sides of the torso to separate the rib cage from the pelvis, providing the length and freedom in the spine necessary to move freely in twists. Make sure to keep both sides of the body parallel, not crunching one side and over-stretching the other, causing the sine to flex laterally.

In all of the poses, but especially in the twists, focus on lengthening across the diagonal of the body: left shoulder moving away from right hip, right hip moving away from left shoulder and vice versa.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Reclined Hip Stretch

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) simple variation with the forearm on the thigh’

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) with the hand on a block

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) preparation, hugging one knee in at a time only

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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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 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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Basic Practice: Oppositional Action Along and Across the Body

Each of these poses require a certain amount of oppositional action in the body. As you go through the sequence, think about the legs reaching one way and the torso and arms reaching the other way to create length and strength. In the twisted poses, think of elongating across the diagonal: the opposite leg and arm/shoulder elongating away from each other.

The Sequence:

Opening Vinyasa:
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Lunge with the back leg straight
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet hip width apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) variation
• With the arms reaching overhead, lift and lower one leg only five times. Then repeat with the other leg.

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) with the arms down by the sides

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose) with the arms overhead if possible

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
• Do the pose with the knees bent and a foam block between them.

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
• Do the pose with a foam block between the feet. Start with the knees bent and then work on straightening them once you have the twist well established.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back only, with the hands on the shin or on blocks.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back only, with the elbows clasped behind the back.

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Simple variation, coming into it from Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose), stepping forward into a lunge and placing the hand down inside the foot rather than crossing the arm over.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) with the feet on blocks

Reclined Hip Stretch

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

Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1) with the feet on the wall

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Practice: Widening the Upper Abdomen and Pectoralis, Releasing the Scapulae Down the Back

This practice features a continuation of last week’s themes. Not only think of widening the upper abdominal wall above the navel, but also widen outward across pectoralis major. As the chest spreads, allow the shoulder blades to drop onto the back ribs. In addition, when twisting, initiate the pose in the lower back, wrapping the quadratus lumborum and rear abdominal wall around towards the navel.

The Sequence:

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Child’s Pose with a blanket roll under the abdomen

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) restorative version with the knees bent

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Shirshasana Cycle:
Child’s Pose in Head Stand
• Bring the knees into the chest with the feet off the floor and hold.
Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Parshva Shirshasana (Side Head Stand)
Virasana (Hero Pose) in Head Stand
Parshva Virasana (Side Hero Pose) in Head Stand
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Parshva Baddha Konasana (Side Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Side Shoulder Stand 1)
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)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) full pose

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

[Practice each of these with a folded mat and a single blanket under the shoulders.]
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand)
Parshva Sarvangasana (Side Shoulder Stand)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Practice: The Psoas and the Quadratus Lumborum in Twists

Once again we are thinking about the quadratus lumborum and the psoas, this time in Padmasana (Lotus Pose) variations and twists. As you perform the sequence below consider the following ideas:
  • Elongate the psoas by lengthening behind the pubic bone, navel and sternum. Think of grounding/moving towards the legs the lesser trochanters, the lower attachment of the psoas, while widening and lifting/moving towards the head T12, the upper attachment.
  • Soften and widen the quadratus lumborum. To help this, soften and widen the buttocks and lengthen them toward the siting bones, while also softening and widening the lower lattisimus dorsi and lengthening them towards the head.
  • Soften the abdomen and allow it to fall back into the quadratus lumborum.
  • When twisting, initiate the movement in the quadratus lumborum, widening it and wrapping it around.

The Sequence:

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Child’s Pose with a roll under the abdomen

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)
• Have a block between the thighs and the calves belted at the thickest place.
• Press the inner thighs outwards away from the bloc, keeping the hip creases wide. Anchor the feet into the block.

Hip stretch in a chair

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 (Bound Angle Pose)
Parivrtta Baddha Konasana (Revolved Bound Angle Pose)

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
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)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) with the legs in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose)
Pindasana (Embryo Pose) with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Ankle-to-Knee Cycle:
[Do each of the following three 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

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes 1)

Malasana (Garland Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2)

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Loosening the hips and elongating the trunk in twists

The spine needs to be fully elongated in order for the vertebrae to turn effectively around their axis. In this sequence, focus on lengthening the sides of the trunk and broadening the chest and back evenly to achieve a properly elongated spine. Work on softening and widening the buttocks and outer hips to help free up the trunk and allow the pelvis to tilt forward more readily, enabling the trunk to lengthen that much more easily.

In addition, keep the hips level. This means that when the leg is raised, or in front of you, or crossed over the other leg, make sure that the hip doesn’t roll up the length of the body towards the head, causing the side of the waist to crunch. If this happens, the pelvis os not level and the lower spine is being hooked to the side, compromising it’s ability to twist in the lower portion. In all of your poses, focus on rolling the outer hip away from the head, towards the tail to help keep the hips aligned.

The Sequence:

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
• Simple variation with the legs in Sukhasana (Comfortable Pose) and the elbows clasped overhead.

Down Dog flow:
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up, right side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Lunge with the back knee up, left side
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Child’s Pose

Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

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

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Come into a lunge with the back knee on the ground; then bring the arm across to twist; then, if able, lift the back knee up.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster with breath awareness

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose) with breath awareness

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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

This class is a modification of the practice from “Light on Yoga” found on p.466 titled “second day of the week” in the Schocken edition.

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

Energetically speaking, focus on making the arms less manipulative, less grabby. Instead of pulling yourself into the pose with the arms, allow the hands to do no more than hold on and move the upper arm bones either out or back, depending on the pose. Allow your exhalations to be long and easy, the inhalations, soft and smooth. With the gentle movement and freedom created by the breath, allow yourself to fall deeper into the pose.

The Sequence


Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) full pose with arm variation

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

Sarvangasana Cycle:
Salamba Sarvangasana 1 (Shoulder Stand 1)
• 5 minutes.
Salamba Sarvangasana 2 (Shoulder Stand 2)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 1 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 1)
Niralamba Sarvangasana 2 (Unsupported Shoulder Stand 2)
Halasana (Plough Pose)
Eka Pada Sarvangasana (Single Leg Shoulder Stand)
Supta Konasana (Reclined Angle Pose)
Parshvaikapada Sarvangasana (Single Leg to the Side Shoulder Stand)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana a(Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Maha Mudra (Great Seal)

Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose)

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

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1)

Marichyasana 2 (Marichi’s Pose 2)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)

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

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

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

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Standing Twists

In this practice we need to find balance in the standing poses by using the strength of the inner thighs. This has the added benefit of allowing the outer hips and thighs a chance to soften, which, in turn, allows the trunk to elongate, allowing for a more effective twist.


The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet hip width apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

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

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back first, then into forward fold.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) with the hand on a block

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3) variation
• Come into the pose with both hands on high blocks.

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose) with the hand on a block

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) with the hand on a block

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Parshva Bharadwajasana (Side Bharadwaja’s Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Practice Lab: Mandalasana [Light on Yoga]

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

The Sequence

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

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• 1 minute.

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

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

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior Pose 3)

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Stretch Pose)

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose)

Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 1 minute.

Parivrtta Pashchimottanasana (Revolved Intense West Stretch Pose)

Akarna Dhanurasana (Bow to the Ear Pose)

Uttanapadasana (Stretched Out Upward Facing Pose)

Setubandhasana (Bridge Lock Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Marichyasana 4 (Marichi’s Pose 4)

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)

Yoganidrasana (Yoga Sleep Pose)

Eka Pada Shirshasana (Single Leg Behind the Head Pose)

Dwi Pada Shirshasana (Both Legs Behind the Head Pose)

Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two Leg Inverted Staff Pose)

Mandalasana (Mandala Pose)

Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

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

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class: Lengthening the Sides to Balance the Spine in Twists

For the spine to twist it needs to be fully elongated with the curves balanced. The easiest way to achieve this is to make sure that the sides of the trunk are elongated and parallel to each other. Then there will be room in the trunk for the twisting action.

The Sequence

Reclined Hip Stretch Sequence

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) legs only into forward bend

Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana (Revolved Reclined Big Toe Pose)
• Have the foot resting on a block. Keep the hips/pelvis facing the block.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)
• Come into the pose with the arms raised alongside the ears, then bring them down into position.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Flat back position with the hands on blocks only.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Come into it from Parshvottanasana.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) with the knees bent

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose) working on straightening the legs

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Intermediate Group Class: Core Poses [Light on Yoga]

This sequence is adapted from p.474 of the Schocken edition of “Light on Yoga”. As you go through the poses, ">think about the sides of the body--the side waist and the side ribs. Strengthen and lengthen them, linking the two sides together by widening across the front and back body. Additionally, think about stretching them either towards or away from the head for additional strength and balance. Where no specific time is given, hold the pose according to your capacity.

The Sequence

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose) with the feet apart

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

Urdhva Dandasana (Upward Staff Pose)
• 1 minute.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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

Halasana (Plough Pose)
• 5 minutes.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• 5 minutes.

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

Malasana (Garland Pose)
• 1 minute.

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

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)
• 1 minute. (Yes, that’s not a typo!)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)
• 1 minute.

Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
• If you are unable to hold the balance for the full time, do the pose with the feet on the floor.
• 1 minute.

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

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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Level 1 Group Class: Lengthening the Trunk for Twists

Marichi's Pose 3
In this class we worked primarily on lengthening the sides of the trunk evenly to lengthen and free the spine in the twists. As a second idea, we worked on taking the twist from the upper trunk (the navel and chest), turning the lower abdomen and hip away from the direction of the twist.

The Sequence

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

Child’s Pose
• Hands on blocks.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back knee up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parivrtta Parshvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
• Simple variation with the arm/hand down inside the front leg.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) forward bend with the legs only

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
• Hands on blocks.
• Only to the flat back position, not the full forward fold.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• From the flat back Parshvottanasana with the hands on blocks.
• Do this twice on both sides.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1) twist only, without binding

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 (Half Lord of the Fishes 1)

Pashasana (Noose Pose) heels on blankets

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster with the ankles belted

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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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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Intermediate Group Class

Marichi's Pose 6 or F
Developing the theme of working with latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major, in this practice we are going to look at twists. If you remember from previous practices, the lats continue through the back of the armpit to the upper arm bone, just as the pecs continue through the front of the armpit attaching right next to the lats on the bone. We will be taking our twists from these two muscle groups, so that means we need to take the armpit into consideration as well as we turn. In addition, the whole lumbar/sacral area tends to get a bit thick and fibrous. We need to ensure that the lat fibers widen and move towards the head in a uniform manner, rather than getting stuck and crunched in that area.

Consider the following actions as you go through the poses:
  • Soften and widen the palms, the pecs and the lats.
  • Think of the inner and outer armpits as four pillars of connection and support of the arms into the trunk. Distribute the weight and/or stretch evenly between each of the four pillars of the armpits.
  • Soften and widen the deltoid (the shoulder cap muscle), wrapping it around the shoulder joint.
  • Hollow out the armpit deep into the joint.
  • Stretch the apex of the armpit, where the lat and the pec come together, towards the palms as you either take the sternum towards or away from the head, depending on the pose. Generally, when the arms are overhead move the sternum away from the head. When they are in front of you, move them towards the head. When the arms are clasped behind the back, widen the sternum and move it deeper into the body.
  • Initiate twists in the lat--the left lat, for example, when turning to the right-- and complete the thought by widening the opposite--the right when turning to the right--pec.
  • Complete the twist by firming the back of the left armpit (when turning right) and moving it across the body, while widening the front of the right armpit.

The Sequence

Shoulder Stretch at wall: Place the forearms and elbows on the wall with the palms together. Make a right angle at the hips with the feet under the pelvis hip width apart. Draw the inner thighs back and reach the arms forward.

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.

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

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have the hands up on blocks set to the lowest level. You might want to set yourself up with the blocks against a wall and the mat folded over the blocks if you find yourself slipping.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Have the feet up on the lowest level blocks.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on the blocks turned up one level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Feet on the blocks turned up one level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Hands on the blocks turned up to the highest level.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Feet on the blocks turned up to the highest level.

Uttanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose) with the feet apart
• Have the hands flat on the floor on either side of the feet. If you are unable to get the whole of the hand down, put blocks underneath.

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the hands on blocks
• Two stages: first the hands under the shoulders; second the arms alongside the ears.

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand) with the hands on blocks

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Simple variation with the Padmasana (Lotus Pose) leg in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) against the inner thigh of the opposite leg instead. Bind with a belt around the foot.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Have the hand that is on the floor flat on a block turned up as high as you like.

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)
• Either the full variation, if possible, or some other modification as necessary.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
• Have the hand that is on the floor flat on a block turned up as high as you like.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Salamba Shirshasana 1 (Head Stand 1)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) in Head Stand
Upavishtha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose) in Head Stand

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)
• Support the thigh with a block, bolster or blankets.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Place a narrow-folded blanket behind the lower back.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Remove the blanket in the back and place a block between the feet.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Back against the wall, sitting up on blankets as necessary to get the sitting bones underneath you.
• Place the block under the feet.
• Spend half the time with arms down by the sides, then raise the arms overhead.

Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Marichi’s Pose) variation
• Bind the arms as if twisting away from the bent leg in Marichyasana 1 (Marichi’s Pose 1).

Utthita Marichyasana (Extended Marichi’s Pose)

Marichyasana 5 (Marichi’s Pose 5) twist only
• Bind the arms and twist away from the raised knee.

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi’s Pose 6)
• Two stages: first with the elbow to the outer knee; second binding the arms, using a belt if necessary.

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Reclined ankle-to-knee glute stretch

Chatushpadasana (Four Feet Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

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

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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Level 1 Group Class

Elbows Clasped Behind the Back
All Fours INTO Child’s Pose
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back
• Have a blanket behind the knees.
• Both crossings of the arms.

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Bound Fingers Pose) in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1)
• Simple variation without binding the arms.
• Turn the head away from the leading shoulder to stretch out the neck and top chest.

Bharadwajasana 1 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 1)
• Full pose with one arm behind the back. Hold onto the arm with a belt if necessary.
• Turn the head away from the leading shoulder to stretch out the neck and top chest.

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) with the elbows clasped behind the back
• Flat back and full forward bend.

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose) with the arms extended forward

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Spread Feet Pose) clasping the elbows behind the back
• Both crossings.

All Fours INTO Plank Pose INTO Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
• Keep the palms firmly sealed into the mat.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet on blocks, holding a belt around the ankles.

Reclined Glute Stretch
• Lie on the back with one ankle on the opposite thigh. Draw the legs in.

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
• Feet on blocks, holding a belt around the ankles.

Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Turning Pose)
• Passive variation with the knees bent and the whole body resting on the floor.

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

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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Intermediate Group Class

Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand
In this practice, focus on releasing and widening the big muscle groups of the back: gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and trapezius. Soften and unlace the spine from the back, as we have been doing in previous classes.

In the twisted poses, keep the back body soft and wide and turn from the back ribs. Come into the pose and pause for a moment before activating the twist. Allow the basic shape of the pose to help release the big back muscles. Then when twisting, say, to the right, widen the left back ribs away from the spine and around to the sternum as you widen the right ribs away from the sternum around into the spine, keep the bones and muscles wide and full so as not to pinch along the spine. As you turn, differentiate the upper ribs from the shoulder girdle, so that the twist can happen inside the collarbones, arm bones and shoulder blades.

The Sequence

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

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose 1) with foot on ledge

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

Bharadwajasana 2 (Bharadwaja’s Pose 2)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

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

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• Without binding.

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• With binding, using a belt if necessary.

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi’s Pose 6)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)
• With binding, using a belt if necessary.

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose) 3 times each side
• Go lightly into the pose, moving with the breath and without holding for more than a moment.
• Go from side to side quickly and smoothly, only holding the pose the last time on each side.

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)
Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose)
Parshva Karnapidasana (Side pressure on the Ear Pose)
Halasana (Plough Pose)

Parshva Halasana (Side Plough Pose) into
Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana (Single Leg Side Shoulder Stand) 3 times each side
• Be up on 1 blanket instead of 3. Use a belt for the arms.
• With the legs in Parshva Halasana on the right side of the head, swing the right leg up and across the body into Eka Pada Parshva Sarvangasana on the left side.
• Go lightly into the poses, moving with the breath and without holding for more than a moment.
• Go from side to side quickly and smoothly, only holding the pose the last time on each side.

Pashchimottanasana (Intense West Stretch Pose)
• Support the head with a blanket, block or bolster.

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

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Level 1 Group Class

Revolved Triangle Pose
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Uttanasana (Intense Stretch Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Child’s Pose

Floor Stretch Sequence:
• Lying on the back, place the right ankle on the left thigh and draw the left thigh in.
• Roll over onto the left side, place the right foot flat on the floor and turn the thigh so the shin point straight up.
• Hook the right leg around the left, drop the knees all the way over to the left and take a twist.
• Repeat on the second side.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) flat back only

Prasarita Padottanasana 1 (Widespread Feet Pose 1) flat back only

Parshvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) arms reaching forward

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose) 2 times

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 1 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 1)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi’s Pose 3)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

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

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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Sequencing

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

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



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











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Advanced Twist Practice

Rope Shirshasana (Head Stand on ropes)
Alternate Pose: Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 2 (Extended Hand and Big Toe Pose 2)
• Leg to the side
• Foot on ledge

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana 1 (Extended Hand and Big Toe Pose 1)
• Leg to the front
• Foot on ledge

Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana (Revolved Hand and Big Toe Pose )
• Foot on ledge

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half Moon Pose)

Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Adho Mukha Vrkshasana (Hand Stand)

Shirshasana (Head Stand)
• Parshva Shirshasana (Revolved Head Stand)
• Parivrttaikapada Parshvakonasana (Single Leg Revolved Head Stand)

Marichyasana 3 (Marichi's Pose 3)

Marichyasana 6 (Marichi's Pose 6)
• Also known as Marichyasana F in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system

Eka Pada Shirshasana (One Leg Behind the Head Pose) Preparation
• Come into Janu Shirshasana (Head of the Knee Pose) with bent leg heel on a block level with the opposite knee

Eka Pada Shirshasana (One Leg Behind the Head Pose)
• Once this is mastered proceed to Marichyasana 8/H

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

Pashasana (Noose Pose)

Parshva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)

Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)

Halasana (Plough Pose)

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
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