“Latitudes” of the back legs

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Straps illustrate the “latitudes” of the back of the leg

During the last class of Mary Obendorfer’s workshop, she talked about three “latitudes” in the back of the legs: one just below the buttock, the other just above the knee, and the third behind the ankle. It was mainly a forward bending and abdominal sequence she taught. She asked us to be aware of the “aliveness” of these three points during each asana.

In today’s practice, I used straps on the points because “contact is intelligence.” In each pose I would study my leg in how it moved against the strap on each of the corresponding latitudes. These straps work well for forward bends in creating awareness.

In Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog pose), try to each with your senses these three points and you will notice your pose takes a very different personality. The pose has more length not just behind the legs, but of the spine as well. 

I often tell my students they have to use other senses when working with the back of the body that the eyes cannot see. In this case, the straps gave me an extra set of “eyes” on those latitude points. As it turns out, we are often “blind” to these areas behind the leg. 

Another exercise Mary had us do throughout the workshop is to image our whole back body making a “print” into an imaginary glass plane. In Supta Tadasana (reclined mountain pose) she had us push our back thighs until they touched the ground. This is no easy feat with those buttocks in the way! Her instruction was to “soften” them, and we also had a helper push down on our front thighs until the back thighs made their “imprint.”

You can do a whole month of practice just working deeply on these three points. In the Yoga Sutras, there is a concept of “Ekagrata” or one pointed attention. You develop keenness in the asanas when you focus on just one point and how that point reacts differently to different asanas.

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