Tag Archives: ardha chandrasana

Developing an eye for correct Yoga postures through drawing

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Illustration by Lior Hikrey

 

I received quite a bit of response from my post “My habit of correcting bad Yoga postures in advertising.” I am not just randomly picking points of poses to criticize. It took years of training and discipline to “see” what a good posture is and what a poor posture is lacking. To fast forward this process, I would advise to do an assignment that was given to me years ago by my mentoring teachers: draw the poses then draw arrows in the direction each limb is going.

This will give you a sense of the base, direction, and correct proportion of each pose. To illustrate, I will do this with Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose).

First, select a good specimen for a posture. I would recommend any of Bobby Clennell’s drawings. She is a long time Iyengar practitioner and teacher and has many books published with her beautiful Asana drawings.

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Then, try to recreate the drawing (sorry Bobby, I’m just a novice)

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Next, try to fill in the base of the drawing so that it is even. I inserted a “block” under the drawing’s hand.

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Then, look at the “base” of the pose. That means whatever is touching the floor or has the “earth element” which is learned later. Draw arrows of the direction the limb is pressing to get a more stable base. In this case the hand and big toe mound press.

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Next, work your self up from the base to the joints. In this case the kneecap presses back and the elbow is fully extended.

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Next, the rotation of the “top” of the limbs. In this case the thigh externally rotates and the upper arm externally rotates.

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Next, I draw the direction of the top leg and the trunk. The top thigh externally rotates and the trunk rotates toward the ceiling.

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Lastly, I draw the top arm action and put a pointy nose to indicate which way the head is turning.

 

 

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This is just a simplified version of this process, but a good way of using other parts of your brain to think about Yoga poses. Drawing the pose makes you slow down and really consider what each limb is doing to create the whole asana. It is also good to do if you are injured and want to still “practice” Yoga.

To give you an example of a more advanced execution of this exercise, practitioner Lior Hikrey offers this level of detail in Utthita Trikonasana:

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I hope you find this exercise enjoyable.

 

Notes from an unorthodox Kofi class

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Kofia Busia is back in town. He is a longtime practitioner who was originally taught by BKS Iyengar. His classes never fail to challenge my thinking on yoga. Last night he broke all the rules. He did forward bends and back bends in the same sequence (a big no-no for traditional Iyengar teachers). He kept repeating three poses: Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), and Prasarita Padottanasana (Expanded Intense Leg Pose) and intersperced many poses in between this trilogy of different-clanned poses.

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He further upped the ante by teaching Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) after Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported All Body Pose, or shoulder stand). We are traditionally taught that after Sarvangasana, there should be cooling poses on the way to Savasana. The one rule he stayed with is teaching Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Head Pose, or headstand) before Salamba Sarvangasana.

The way Kofi teaches is not the Iyengar method. Kofi just says the name of the pose in Sanskrit and has you fill in the blanks. He rarely makes corrections. When he does make manual adjustments, it’s to get people deeper into the pose. 

While in the pose,  he will tell some story or anecdote which somehow relates to his sequence. Last night he talked about the circus attraction of a knife thrower and the live target. He said the trick is to get the knife as close as possible to the target without hitting it. He related that to the odd sequence he was teaching. He said we have to use our internal matter (I cannot recall the Sanskrit word he used) that is not just the muscle, but all the “hardware” of our being to allow us to perform each asana safely despite the odd order of poses. He also stated that all the great artists in history first learned the rules, and then broke them to create something new.

He also talked about how people who are masters in their craft deliberately add obstacles to their practice. He told how Billie Jean King would compete against two men at the same time. He told about how a writer in England went through the whole play of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and took out words with the letter “I” and “recast” them with another word. Thirdly, he talked about how Jazz Guitarist Django Reinhardt, who lost use of some of his fingers, but mastered his instrument despite his disability. Kofi said that other jazz guitarist taped their fingers to try to emulate Reinhardt’s style.

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As I am writing this the next morning, I notice that the sequence did not injure me, but my back is a bit stiff. I consulted another student in the class who said her back is stiff too. I will return tonight to his class to see what he conjures up next. Stay tuned!!!

Sketches of Ardha Chandrasana

ImageArdha Chandrasana, or half moon pose is a lunar yogic journey. You start off on the ground, get ready for launch, and blast off into the pose. But with every successful launch there is a successful landing. You have to come out of the pose with the same balance and equipoise from whence you entered. I was at the studio where I teach today and did some of this pose in my own practice to commemorate the half moon that is shining down now. Here’s a how to:

Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

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Jump the legs 4 to 4.5 feet apart (1.5 meters) and extend the arms to the side.

Revolve the left foot a few degrees and turn the entire right leg and foot until it intersects the middle of the left arch.

Keep the legs firm as you extend the torso laterally to the right placing your right hand on a block or floor.

The left arm remains extended on the same plane as the right.

This is Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).

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From Utthita Trikonasna, bend the knee 90 degrees.

Take your left foot toward the right one foot (30 cm)

Move your right hand forward one foot (30 cm) and wait. This is what this stage looks like:

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Now place the block diagonal from the little toe one foot

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This gives you a base for balance for beginning students. As you advance, you move your hand to the center line and eschew the block.

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From here, move the armpit over the wrist, rotate the trunk toward the ceiling. You are ready to “blast off.”

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Press down with the big toe mound and straighten the standing leg. Top leg is firm.Image

To finish the pose, extend your top arm like Utthita Trikonasana and rote the head toward the ceiling. If balance is an issue, rotate the head to the floor:

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To exit the pose, repeat the above steps in reverse. Lower the leg to the floor, extend the legs back to 4.5 feet, press with the right big toe mound to Utthita Trikonasana.

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Here is a side note. Coming into Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is a very different experience coming from the ground up than it is coming top down. It feels much more grounding and organic folding up from the floor like a flower blooming. Don’t throw this stage away! Doing that would be like eating all the artichoke leaves and not enjoying the heart.

From Utthita Trikonasana, keep the legs firm as you swing the top arm up to standing. Jump your feet back together to Tadasana.

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If you are having issues with balance and cannot do in the middle of the room. Use a wall.Image

And if you have the means, you can use a trestle. Many Iyengar studios have them. Notice I am using the trestle edge to further open the chest. My shoulders really felt this after an arm balancing practice yesterday.

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Ground control to Major Tom! By following these steps, you have done Ardha Chandrasana and nothing’s wrong. Happy half moon!