Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finding Intensity

Last weekend, my friend Stacie came to town, we went to Anne and Devon's Iyengar yoga Immersion.  The theme was Intensity in Practice.

Normally, when I think of a pose that is intense, I think of something I can only do for a short period of time, that requires great effort, focus, and is difficult for most to do.  Yet, all poses have their own intensity: the great opening of Urdhva Dhanurasana, the quad burning of Utkatasana, the shoulder flexion of Urdhva Namaskarasana.  If you bring all of these poses together, you get Virabhadrasana 1.

Funny thing about Virabhadrasana 1.  It's an easy pose.  It's a hard pose.  It's an easy pose - at the most basic level, it's a lunge with the arms up.  Most people can lunge to some degree.  On the other hand, I remember a workshop with George Purvis where I had to demonstrate Virabhadrasana 1.  I have a crazy hard time straightening my back leg.  George was sitting on the floor, next to my back leg talking to the class about the inner chip of my back knee, as I'm struggling to make it move and stay in the pose.

So for props to be effective teachers, they must both make poses easier and more intense. 

Stacie graciously agreed to model the use of props.

The first use of props, makes it easier to bent the front leg to parallel with the floor, taking some of the intensity out of the front quad.  By placing her toes up the wall and a block on her shin bone, she can bring her thigh lower.  By placing her fingertips to the wall, with her arms straight, Stacie can lift her chest and keep herself from collapsing forward.

Here, Stacie uses a strap to find the mid-line of Virabhadrasana 1.  The strap reminds her to keep her chest facing forward and her shoulders level with one another.

In this next attempt, Stacie is using a strap to assist her back leg to lift as well as creating an intense stretch in the shoulders.  She can walk her hands down the strap and lift up strongly. 

Now, she's moved the strap down to her foot.  The same action is happening in her shoulders, but now the strap is helping her lift her back foot arch.

Stacie admitted, like me, she has difficulty straightening her back leg.  So, in her final effort, Stacie has a block underneath her back shin.  This is to keep her from bending her back leg.  The block is a gentle reminder, more than a brace.  A reminder to create her own intensity.  The black cat is making sure the block is in the right place.

Many thanks to H. S. Arun for inspirational strap work.


  1. Great post. I like the back leg strap vira 1. I'll try that one this morning.

  2. It's a great use of the strap. Enjoy

  3. Just discovered your blog and I love it. I've just been taking a break from my Ashtanga practice and I'm having a blast with Iyengar yoga... belts, blocks, walls, the chair - it's so much fun and so much harder than expected!

  4. Great blog Mary! I have photos of you doing all these strap variations (and more) in Virabhadrasana 1 at Arun's workshop - 2010 at Boerne Yoga Center. Would you like me to send them to you?

    1. Thanks for offering Debbie. I still have them :)