Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sequence for Assessment, Supta style

Later this week I take my Introductory 2 Assessment.  When I mentioned that I had a sequence to practice the morning of the demonstrated practice, a few people expressed interest is seeing it.  So blog world, here is how I will open up on the floor in a hotel room with a strap.  The strap is optional.

After all those reclined poses, I like to wake up again with a handstand.  Here, I'm showing off the back of my shirt, as well as some unevenness in my hips and arms.

Happy Practicing!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Parsva Halasana, setting things right

Assessment season is upon us.  Iynegar yoga teachers and those wishing to be Iyengar yoga teachers are questioning poses they've done for many years.  While assessment is not exactly joyful, pleasant, or something you would wish upon anyone you cared two straws, the aspiring teachers learn depth about the asana on their syllabus.

As I prepare for my Intro 2 assessment, one thing I noticed was that my arms, as well as my student's arms, move sideways while doing Parsva Halasana.  Of course, when you do Parsva Halasana, you can't see your arms - even if you are doing yoga in a place with mirrors.  Unless the mirrors are on the ceiling... which, um, I would question the wisdom of doing yoga in such a place.

Anyway, how do you know where your arms are drifting?  One way is to develop such depth and awareness in your practice so you can feel slight movements in your arms, while upside down, turning your spine, pressing your upper arms into the floor, softening your neck, leveling your hips, straightening your legs...

I don't doubt there are people out there with such awareness.  I'm not one of them.  I use a strap and a brick instead. 

Here's how I set up: a brick tall enough to feel between the hands and a strap around the wrists.  This picture tells me my left arm (the one with the watch) is further away from the midline than my right.  (Not something I could tell from this setup.  I would have to use a bigger brick.)

This arm position is in Halasana:

Now I move to Parsva Halasana to my right:

And my arms move to my left.  I touch the brick with my right hand:

Now I know I need to move my arms:

Even with this knowledge, when I take my legs to the left, the same thing happens, even with Iggy's help:

Shifting the arms once again:

Happy practicing!

For more information on what it means to be a certified Iyengar teacher, check out the following links:
BKS Iyengar official site

Monday, June 29, 2015

Spectrum of difficulty in Virabhadrasana 3

Hello again blog world.  It's been some time.

A few people have asked why I haven't included chairs on my yoga blog. Two much more experienced teachers have books out all about doing yoga with chairs, so check them out. 

Arun, who I've studied with quite a bit, has a wonderful book out called Experience and Experiment on the Chair.  You can buy your own copy here.  You can find some great books in the IYNAUS bookstore, in addition to this one.

There's another chair book out that you should also get called A Chair for Yoga, by Eyal Shifroni.  He has a different approach to the chair, so both books should be in your library.

 Maybe if I learn some things not in these books, I'll have a chair blog post.

On to Virabhadrasana 3.  Or perhaps you'd rather not go there?  There are so many challenges in this pose: it requires great core strength, more flexibility than people think, and a great amount of balance and concentration.  Below is a spectrum of ways of approaching this pose.  I've organized it from least to most difficulty for me.  You may not agree.

One of my favorite ways to practice this pose is on the floor.  Ok, some people might call this supta padagustasana 1, but it's also  Supta Virabhadrasana 3.  The interesting thing about this one is that it shows you how much flexibility you need for the pose.  A lot.

Now, you have to stand up.
Use blocks under the hands and have the back foot at the wall.  It is fairly easy to keep the hips level and the leg lifted.
To add challenge to this one lift the hand on the opposite side of the standing leg.
Then lift the same side leg.

Turn around.  Place your hands on the wall, keep your arms evenly pressed into the wall with straight elbows, then lift your leg.  Being on your fingertips is more difficult than hands flat.  Do not allow one elbow to bend, it is a sign that your torso is also uneven.

A variation on any of these is to put a block on the hips to keep them level to the floor.

By placing the side of the body against the wall, all of the elements of the pose are there, except balance.  This also keeps the hips nice and compact.

To make balance more challenging, but still adding a little support, put the foot at the wall for your balance point.  This variation is not done from blocks under the hands, that is below.  You can start with your chest lifted and the back leg a little bent.

To do free standing pose with a little help, use a strap and pull the strap apart.  This helps more than you might think.

Finally, for lots of core work, go back to the blocks under than hands and the foot at the back wall.  Then lift both arms away from the blocks.  If you do not take your standing leg thigh back strongly, you will fall out of the pose (or bend your lifted leg, which is cheating).

Teaching cats bad habits.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana with help from the experts

In Iyengar yoga land, there isn't a "cat pose".  The only feline tribute is simhasana or lion pose.  Maybe someday I will campaign for the renaming of Eka Pada Sirasana (foot behind the head) to cat pose.  Cats are masters of it after all.  Besides, it's confusing having two separate poses with the same name.

There are two tributes to the dog: Adho Mukha Svanasana (AMS) and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (UMS).  For today's fun with props, I enlisted the help of my friend Leann and her two canines.
 In this first photo, Leann shows her regular Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.  The big dog thinks she could move her chest forward a bit.

 So here, we've tied a strap around Leann's arms.  This strongly encourages the chest to move forward of the arms. 

 If you looked closely at Leann's feet in the strap assisted pose, you noticed that her right foot was turned in a bit more than the left.  Here we put a block between her feet to keep the foot pointing straight back.
The first photo has one block.  This is good for if you wanted to move in and out of UMS with a block between your feet.
In the second photo, there are two blocks turned on their side so the entire length of the foot can press into the block.  The little dog likes this one better.

Another use for the block is between the thighs.  When you press a block between your thighs, it is easier to access the muscles of the outer thigh.  This gives Leann more lift as well as better awareness of her legs.

Clearly a crowd-pleaser, pressing into a strap around the calves brings awareness to the inner thigh as well as broadness across the back.  This is a great prop to try if you feel pinching in the lower back.

The blanket is a great tool to slide the chest forward of the arms.  Place a blanket behind your mat, and place your feet on the blanket.  Come up into UMS and slide your chest forward.

 Leann is long and lean, with graceful arms and legs.  I'm short and round, with most of my height in my torso.  While backbends are a little easier for me, the ground is much closer when I do UMS.  So here, I get a little height in the arms from a pair of blocks.  For the T-Rex club, this makes UMS so lovely.

But wait, there's more.  Want to make UMS, even more lovely?  Turn the blocks out about 45 degrees.  I feel this frees the shoulder in such a way that the chest just glides though.

Height under the hands can help everyone though, just look how much lift Leann has using a bench!

 If you really want to get your chest lifted, try placing your chest against a wall.  This post was really nice because I could have my hands on either side, but any wall will work.  The little dog is unimpressed though.

Thanks to Leann and her team!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

DIY Rope Wall

If you have ever taken a class at an Iyengar yoga studio, you know about the rope wall.
However, you may not be ready to change your entire living space to have a rope wall in your home.  Or perhaps, you are not ready for the questioning looks you receive when a guest sees something like this in your house:

(if you want to build something like this, click here)

 With many thanks to my teacher, Karuna Nicols, you can have a modified rope wall any time you like!  All you need is a dowel and two straps:

First, attach each strap to the dowel:

Place the dowel and straps over a door:

Close the door, rear view:

Rope wall view:

Show your cat that this toy is yours:

Time to experiment with the new toy.  The other cat is trying to bite my arm.

He gets kicked out of the room for the next pose:

Using both straps to get some lift:

Getting some lift the other way around:

Sometimes, you have to share: