Boy, today we had a wonderful class. It was all restorative. We started in Viparita Karani (legs up the wall), in which we did several variations – legs in Upavista Konasana (wide angle) and Baddha Konasana (cobbler), followed by moving off the bolster and putting it perpendicular to the wall and shoved back. Essentially it was the back position of Supta Baddha Konasana and the leg position of Viparita Karani. We also put a little block on the bolster between our shoulder blades.
Then we did some seated poses, including Virasana (hero), and various shoulder openers. Those were leading up to a long hold in Supta Virasana (reclining hero), with one leg bent out in front.
Near the end we did Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) in the ropes, for a long time, and then a version of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge).
It was both restful and energetic in a way. I could really feel what a good thing this sort of practice is for calming the nervous system.
The other day I did something nice in my practice I’d forgotten about. I did a sort of a flow of standing poses.
Let’s see if I can describe this. I started in Trikonasana (triangle). Then instead of coming up out of it, I brought my torso and arms upright and bent my front knee, resulting in Virabhadrasana II (warrior II). After that, I swung over my knee into Uttitha Parsvakonasana (extended side angle). From there, I leaned forward and put my hand on a waiting block, straightened my front leg and rose into Ardha Chandrasana (half moon). When I came down from A.C. into Trikonasana again, I turned my feet forward into Prasarita Padottanasana (forward wide-angle).
Then I did the whole process in reverse on the other side, ending in Trikonasana.
Somewhere in there I did Parsvottanasana, but I can’t quite remember where.
Today I was not in a hurry, but I had other things I wanted to get done in the morning. Before my walk I did three standing poses, not as a practice, per se, but just to get stretched out.
When I came back, I sat in Virasana (hero) with a rolled up blanket behind my knees for about eight minutes. Then I did Jathara Parivartanasana (turning the belly) twice, for a minute on each side (yep, still dealing with sciatica, how did you know?). Then ten minutes of Savasana.
This post is for Dana. She and I had been talking about our difficulties with Vrksasana (tree). Yesterday morning I decided to do a practice for study session. Reminder: In practice for study, you have a focus pose, which you start off with. Then you do a pose that has some relationship to the focus pose. Then you do the focus pose again, and so on. You start with the base of the pose and move up.
Here’s what I did:
Tadasana (mountain), to get a firm base, spreading the bottoms of my feet, extending my toes, and pressing down through heel, big toe base and little toe base.
Urdhva Hastasana (upward salute), as long as I was in Tadasana I thought I might as well do those upraised arms at the same time.
Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (hand to big toe), for its one-leggedness and for the hip opening.
Trikonasana (triangle), for hip opening and a strong base in the feet.
Parsvakonasana (extended side angle) for the deep hip crease to address our bugaboo, the leg that won’t stay up in Vrksasana.
Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), one legged balancing, big long extension from foot to head, and some adductor stretching and strengthening.
Baddha Konasana (bound angle), for getting that big bend in the hip.
Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle), which I always need to practice to get my adductor bones to wake up and turn back into muscles.
Supta Pandangusthasana (supine hand to big toe, sorry, no pic for this one). I did four variations: leg straight up, leg out to the side, leg across the body, and the last, which I may have made up, with the strap holding the leg up into Vrksasana. This at least lets me know it’s possible to get my heel up into my groin.
Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle)
I did various versions of Vrksasana as I went along – in the middle of the room, back against the wall, knee against the wall, against the wall holding the up ankle with a strap. I can’t say for sure that my up leg got any farther up my thigh through this sequence, but it didn’t get lower, and my balance definitely improved.
I think I might have written about practice for study before. I learned it from Margaret Carr and Mary Obendorfer.
The big idea is that you pick a pose to work on, and then you think about what other poses are related to the target pose, and in what way, and you alternate the target pose with the related poses. In this way you deepen your understanding of the target pose and increase your ability to do it.
This morning I decided to use Malasana (garland) as my target pose. Unfortunately, my cool yogafont pics don’t include Malasana. You can see it on yogajournal.com. The picture there doesn’t show the part where you bend forward and wrap your arms around your back. When my shoulders are not acting up, I can get around my ankles.
I love Malasana. It’s such a deep hip bend and back stretch, and it feels great. Until I got arthritis in my knees last March, I used to do it often in my morning shower. Finally, my knees are bendable again.
I started with Sukhasana (easy cross-legged pose), of course, to do my centering and invocation to Patanjali. Then I did a sort of silly wall sun salutation because my shoulders aren’t up to the shoulder-intensive parts of the sequence. Then I thought I should just warm up and open up a bit, which is why I did a few standing poses.
Normally I think you are supposed to start from the base up, but my choices were a bit more of a hodge-podge. I was looking for asanas that would open up my hips so I could get down between them more, and that would help my knees to loosen up. Between each pose I did Utkatasana (chair) and Malasana. Utkatasana is the way I’m used to dropping into Malasana. I forgot as I was practicing that I wanted to work on getting my heels closer to the floor too, so none of the poses here focus on that.
By the way, I didn’t do Dvi Pada Viparita Dandasana the way it’s shown in the picture here. I did it over a chair, with a mat on the chair seat, and my feet on a footstool. Nor did I do Supta Baddha Konasana flat on the floor. I used a bolster.
This morning I didn’t have time to do much. I decided to do one of each of several kinds of poses. I didn’t do any inversions, or twists, or several others, but this was a nice short practice. By the way, on the Yoga Center of Lawrence website, you can find an excellent resource put together by Jill Krebs. It’s all the poses in Light on Yoga, Sanskrit and English names, location in the book, and classification of each pose.
Seated: Virasana (hero)
Balancing: Vrksasana (tree)
Standing: Parsvottanasana (intense stretch to the side)
Extra standing: Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog)
Shoulderstand, more or less: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge in shoulderstand)
Sometimes I think I did nothing in my practice. Not really nothing, but nothing much. It felt that way today, so I wrote down the list. I’m including the props I used, because a friend thought I’d done Supta Virasana, Eka Pada variation (reclining hero with one foot; supta ‘reclining’, vira ‘hero’, asana,’pose’, eka ‘one, pada ‘foot’ ) recently with no props, bwahahahahaha! For that one, I used a bolster, three blankets, and a block, and it still took five minutes for my knee to come down to the floor.
Virasana (hero’s pose), with a block
Trikonasana (triangle), with a block
Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), with a block and the wall
Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch), with my hands on an ottoman
Utthita Padangusthasana I and II(big toe pose), with my foot on a block on the arm of a chair
Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)
Lotus prep (lying down, one foot on the wall, the other across my knee)
Jathara Parivartanasana (turning the belly)
Savasana (corpse), with eye wrap, neck roll, bolster under knees
This took about an hour and fifteen minutes. Once I wrote it down I saw that I had done a lot.
That’s the title of a handout my wonderful teacher Margaret gave us when she taught a home practice class. I’m going to dig out some more of the information from that class and start posting it.
The handout had only pictures of the poses and their names.
Supta Padangusthasana (reclining hand to foot pose; turn the picture counterclockwise so that the person is lying on her back). I really do try to do this, if not every day, then very often. The two other parts of it involve extending the leg out to the side, and then switching hands so that the up leg is across your body. I use a strap to hold my foot, and press the down foot against the wall. Sometimes I do it against a projecting wall in my house.
Baddha Konasana (cobbler’s pose). I need to sit on at least one blanket for this one. It’s best to be up high enough that your knees are below your hips. In tough times (stiff, inflexible times), that sometimes means three or even four blankets under me. I also like to do it against the wall with a block between my shoulder blades pressed into the wall. For someone like me who has trouble remaining upright, this feels excellent, and it seems to allow me to focus on pressing my knees down rather than fighting to balance.
Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle pose). This is my most difficult pose. It’s funny, because it’s often part of a restorative class, where you sit in the pose and then lean forward with your head on a bolster. I can no more do that than fly across the room. I have occasionally wept in frustration trying to avoid flipping over backwards. That’s why this is one of my TV poses. Do I do it every day? Um, no.
(As a side note, I just found a cool thing called yogafont, and that’s where these pics came from. You’ll see them again.)
See, you could have a short practice with these poses plus (always) Savasana. You can stay in these for a while, or do one or two minutes each.
I seem to have a pattern going of going to class on Wednesday, and then practicing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. Very strange. I’m trying for every day, all the time, but I get up to walk for 45 minutes every weekday, and I’ve started a 9:00 am water exercise class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so it’s hard to work it in.
I need to insert some shorter practices so that I actually do practice every day. I talked to a friend recently about what to do in a short practice. Here’s one idea:
Tadasana (mountain pose)
Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
I sometimes use a timer in my practice, but more often I count breaths. You could try ten breaths each for these poses, but do at least five minutes in Savasana.
Only have five minutes? Do one minute of Tadasana and 4 minutes of Savasana. Perfect.
I always try to remind myself that a short practice is OK, but I rarely do a good one. Today I wasted a lot of time playing web Boggle. (No, I’m not giving the link. It’s bad.) The whole time I kept thinking, stop this now and practice yoga!
I had an 11:45 appointment. It takes at least 15 minutes to drive to town. It was 10:45. Not enough time for a ‘real’ practice.
Somehow I booted myself away from the desk and down to the mat. It’s hard for me to get up and down with the arthritis in my hands and arms, so I decided to punt the seated beginning part.
I stood in Tadasana (mountain), took several breaths, put my hands in prayer position, and chanted the invocation to Patanjali.
I did a few arm-strengthening physical therapy things next.
Then I did Trikonasana (triangle), Virabhadrasana II (warrior), Parsvakonasana (extended side angle), and Ardha Chandrasana (half moon) with my foot against the wall.
Then in Tadasana again, I put my hands in prayer position, bowed my head forward, and said the short prayer that my teacher Margaret used to say every time:
Bow head to heart.
Surrender ego to compassion.
Honor the divine within.
I bowed and was done. I was not late to my appointment.