Tag Archives: paschima pratana sthiti

Message from Geeta-ji

This came straight from the institute (RIMYI) regarding International Yoga Day on Tuesday June 21:

 

A Theme for Your Practice

In his early days, Guruji used to practice and teach forward extensions on Tuesdays.
Forward extension asanas: Janu Sirsasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana, Adho Mukha Upavistha Konasana, Paschimittanasana, Krounchasana, Kurmasana etc.
Then the Eka Pada Sirsasana cycle: Eka Pada Sirsasana, Skandasana, Bhairavasana, Kala Bhairvasana, Chakorasana, Durvasasana, Ruchikasana, Yoga Nidrasana etc.
Finally ending with the twisting asanas such as Bharadvajasana, Marichyasana III, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Pasasana.

He would do the forward extensions for 2 to 3 minutes on each side and stay for as long as
10 minutes in Paschimottanasana.

This will be the theme for our practice on yoga day this year. Let us do asanas from this
category according to our level of practice and ability.

…Below is from IYNAUS….

RIMYI also advised us that “As regards the other events, we can open out our centres for new students to experience a class of Iyengar Yoga. This would mean following the simple asanas as listed out last year from the Preliminary Course. We can also show a film/video of Guruji’s practice, talks, teaching as that is ever inspiring.”

For those of you who would like to take up the suggestion of following a forward extending sequence suitable for early and intermediate level students, we offer the following sequence as an option. Please use any modifications you are familiar with that are suitable to your condition.
Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Uttanasana
[If you have a regular practice of inverted poses, add those here.]
Paschimottanasana, feet apart
Janu Sirsasana
Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana
Marichyasana I twisting
Marichyasana I forward bending
Paschimottanasana feet together
Upavistha Konasana
Bharadvajasana I
Marichyasana III
Ardha Matsyendrasana I
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
Savasana

iyengar paschimottanasna

 

Be well, and best wishes for International Yoga Day 2016.

 

Advertisements

Forward bends calm the mind

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.25.03 PM

“Yoga ceases the fluctuations of the consciousness,” says the the second sutra in the first chapter from Patanjali. That could  not have been a more appropriate sutra for this week. It was officially the first “work week” of the year and already there are many crises on my caseload. There are also worldwide crises with the Paris bombings. The world needs yoga more now than ever before. How can we have a peaceful world if we are not peaceful within ourselves?

I was fortunate enough to take a lunch hour to devote to forward bends (paschima pratana sthiti). For many years, I was taught that forward bends have a “calming effect” on the nervous system. I was so stiff at the time that I thought the teacher was nuts. “How can my screaming hamstrings have any calming effect?!” I would say to myself.

Seasons change for one’s practice, and the more one practices, the faster that season changes. I can now say my forward bends bring me a substantial calmness internally. Even with my tight hips and groins, poses like Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana are coming better. My mentoring teachers and peers have been working on this pose and using me as a demo student. I’ve notice it is making a difference in loosening my hips and groins.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.29.57 PM

 

And there is nothing like a passive forward bend like hanging from the horse in an inverted Dandasana to elongate the spine and loosen tight shoulders.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.25.43 PM

 

So much in the Yoga world now is about profit, jumping around to loud music, and wearing the latest fashion. Let this be a reminder that Yoga is not about any of that. It is about stopping your mind chatter so you can see yourself more clearly. Then you can be the change the world needs right now.

Have a great weekend!

Paschima pratana sthiti for beginners

My dear friend Sudhanshu Srivastava from Kolkata has been suffering when doing forward bends. He says in Paschimottanasana (Intense stretch pose for the West side of the body as seen below) that he is not able to bend forward but only a few degrees.

paschimottonasana

This is a difficult pose for any beginner and should not be considered until two things happen: the hamstrings loosen and the abdomen softens. That takes a few years of correct practice in the Iyengar method. Otherwise there is a risk of injury, particularly tearing a hamstring muscle. This pose does not appear until the second (Intro II) syllabus which assumes the practitioner has had at least three years of practice in the asanas preceding it.

Here is a sequence of forward bends for people with tight hamstrings and a hard abdomen.

ardha uttanasana

Ardha Uttanasna with wall (hips directly above ankles, wrists on same plane as hips)

Chair downdog

Chair Adho Mukha Svanasna (note heels are pressing down)

U T in chair

Chair Utthita Trikonasna

parsvottanasna with chair

Parsvottanasna Stage I with chair and back heel pressing against wall

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.19.16 PM

Prasarita Padottanasna Stage I with blocks

rolled blanket

First roll a blanket about half way of what it is in picture…

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 1.50.58 PM

Then insert it in the crease between the abdomen and thighs in a bent knee Uttanasna. Make sure the cavity of the abdomen fills with blanket. Eventually try to straighten the leg keeping the blanket in the cavity. This will be very uncomfortable because the abdomen is tight. Do what you can.

sp mere mortal

Supta padangusthasana with belt keeping abdomen soft.

savasana with chair

Savasana with legs on chair, knees slightly in front of hips as seen above. Note that abdomen remains soft.

This is just an example of a simple forward bending sequence and should not be considered dogma by any means. My aim here is as mentioned above, to address tight hamstrings and abdominal muscles. I put a lot of emphasis on the “softness” of the abdomen because the rock hard “six pack” abdomen makes it very difficult to do forward bends due the overuse. The rectus abdomini are just superficial muscles. The muscles I am concerned with are the much deeper and stronger are the transversus abdomini.

paschimotonasna with kofi

To lastly illustrate my point, the above picture is taken at a Kofi Busia workshop a few years ago. That is me in Paschimottanasna with a little help from Kofi. I weighed about 175 lbs (80kg) in the photo and have a roundish soft abdomen. The red haired lady in the background is obviously much lighter and has a “six pack” style abdomen. That is as far as she got in the pose.

 

A simple forward bending sequence for experienced students

paschimotonasna with kofi

Some readers have requested that I give more sequences in my posts. Here is my lesson plan for tomorrow’s class. It is forward bending pose (Paschima Pratana Sthiti) week at my studio. Forward bends are nice to “cool” the nervous system during these hot summer days in the Northern Hemisphere. I provided links with some of the poses for instructions.

Tadasana with Gomukhasana Arms

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.13.19 PM

Adho Mukha Svanasana at wall

penn studio

Utthita Trikonasna

iyengar triangle

Utthita Parsvakonasana

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 10.34.44 PM

Parsvottanasana

parsvottanasana (2)

Prasarita Padottanasana

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.28.13 PM

 

Salamba Sirsasana (Use wall if new to pose. Don’t do if menstruating, have glaucoma or high blood pressure. Omit and go to next pose.)

Salamba-Sirsasana-I-BKS

Baddha Konasana

baddha konasana

Janu Sirsasana

janu sirsasana

Paschimottonasana

paschimottonasana

Halasana (Don’t do if menstruating, go to savasana instead omitting next two poses).

SS halasana

Salamba Sarvangasana (see above note).

10-Salamba-Sarvangasana

Savasana

savasana

If you do this at home it could take you between 1 to 1.5 hours depending on how long you hold and repeat the poses. If you have time constraints, please do not sacrifice savasana. For my classes I will repeat the standing poses a few times and teach to points I see my students need to work on. Inversions should only be done once for beginners, particularly Salamba Sirsasana. I started with Gomukhasana arms to get the chest opened and prepped for the stage I concave back position in the above forward bends and for the shoulder work in Salmaba Sirsasana. Have a wonderful practice!

Making the leap from the studio to a home practice

Image

The other night I was subbing a class and asked some of the students if they had a home practice. These were students who have been practicing for years, and their responses were a bit surprising. “I don’t know which poses to do,” one said. “I prefer just doing yoga in the studio,” another said.

I am finding that not practicing at home because of these two reasons is very common. Doing yoga without a teacher is very much like studying Spanish for 10 years in a classroom and being asked by someone from Spain where the bathroom is and drawing a complete blank. And then when the Spanish guy leaves and finds the bathroom on his own, you come up with a beautifully crafted sentence with agreeing tenses on how to find the loo.

Making a jump from studio practice to home practice is tantamount to that scene in 2001, A Space Odyssey where the caveman throws the bone in the air and it jump cuts to a large spaceship. You get a much richer experience trying it on your own! I remember when I started supplementing my classes with a home practice, my yoga experience increased exponentially.

A bit of history about my own practice. I was one of those people who picked up “Light On Yoga” got inspired, and tried the courses at the back of the book…the kind with 40-50 poses for a single practice. I remember those days. I would blast Coltrane while trying to do Parsvottanasana which I thought was a backbend in stage I because Iyengar’s chest was so open.

Image

Of course Parsvottanasana is actually a forward bend and the prep as seen above is to open the chest. To get to my point, I had to do the manual labor of those courses and fail miserably in my own practice before I could appreciate what my teacher was actually trying to tell me. But a magical thing happened while I was trying out those courses and could not make it past week 16 in Light On Yoga…I developed some type of internal discernment about how to sequence poses.

One of my top posts is to do Supta Padangusthasana if you cannot think of any other pose to start your practice. To develop that idea a bit further for seasoned students, I would start doing a home practice by first selecting a clan of poses on which to focus. There are Utthishta Sthiti (standing poses), Paschima Pratana Sthiti (forward bends), Purva Pratana Sthiti (Backbends), Upavistha Sthiti (seated poses), Viparita Sthiti (Inversions), Udara Akunchana Sthiti (abdominal poses), and Visranta Karaka (restorative poses). Each clan has it’s own personality and effects.

Standing poses are vigourous and are the “donkey work” of yoga. It is said that raw beginners should do at least 6 months from this clan before proceeding if their practice is regular. I would say more like 2 years for the practitioner who does yoga twice a week.

Forward bends are considered “cooling” as they calm the nervous system when done properly. However, if you have tight hamstrings, parsvottanasana (see above) is anything but “cooling” and that is why you need the prerequisite foundation of standing poses.

Seated poses are “quieting” and allow the practitioner to learn how to build time in poses. With a strong earth element in the pose, they ground the practitioner. With experience, one later uses this clan for pranayama and dhyana.

Backbends are approached with caution. The are “heating” and energizing, but you can blow a gasket (or a vertebrae) if you don’t respect this clan. It is best to start with the “baby back bends” like salabhasana before getting too adventurous.

Inversions are also approached with care. They have an assertive effect on blood circulation. If you have any blood pressure issues, you should consult your teacher and your doctor. It is also not advised for women not to do this while menstruating. Once that is out of the way inversions should be a daily practice and advised to do in the evening as they contract many of the ill effects of sitting throughout the day.

Abdominal poses can be treated more like a garnish, more than an entree and can be interspersed between poses in certain sequences. These are poses like Paripoona Navasana, and Supta Padangusthasana. However, I have been to many classes where all we did was abdominal poses.

Lastly, restorative poses are done for several reasons. I like to think of them as “repairing” myself for any mistakes I made in my other clans. In the Iyengar style, women who are menstruating should adhere to restorative practice during their cycle and omit inversions. Yoga in the West nowadays is turning into a glorified aerobics craze, and this clan allow the practitioner to start focusing on the inward aspects of the practice.

To start one’s own practice, I would chose a clan according to experience and energy level. Yoga is an art, a science, and a philosophy. By doing your own practice, you practice the art. You construct what you need to do. You explore concepts that you are curious about. You will fail. You will succeed.

“Latitudes” of the back legs

Image

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.