Tag Archives: prasarita padottanasana

Taking the student’s suggestion

I was subbing yesterday evening. When I sub, I try to treat all of the students with kid gloves because I was chosen as a representative of the teacher. It was “restorative week” and I was teaching prasarita padottanasna as seen above. There is a stage one and stage two of the pose. Stage one, head is up, stage two, head is on the floor.

A good teacher uses “landmarks” aside from just “right, left, front and back.” So in stage one, I was telling the students to lift their head and look toward the parking lot. After about three times in this pose I heard a student say “may I offer a suggestion?”

In the past, that question has been fraught with many pitfalls from “can you play music in your class?” to “why don’t you heat up the room like hot yoga classes?” And since I didn’t know this student, I was braced for the worst.

“Can you say ‘mountains’ instead of ‘parking lot,'” the student asked. I turned around and saw this outside the studio window:

Rainbow

 

So from now on I will say: look to the rainbow! Brilliant suggestion.

A restorative sequence for a tough week

niece in triangmukhaikapadapaschimottanasana

It has been a rough week for the Iyengar community for obvious reasons. To pick up with Guruji’s quote “My ending should be your beginning” I will continue to publish teachings on my blog to further yoga. Here is a restorative sequence for beginning students at the request of my friend Sudhanshu in Kolkata.

gomukhasana arms

Gomukhasana arms to open chest and shoulders

Chair downdog

Chair Adho Mukha Svanasna to address hamstring stiffness and further open the chest.

U T in chair

Chair Trikonasana to charge legs and further open chest

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Prasarita Padottanasana stage I with blocks to get more concavity from upper back.

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Vrksasana for lift in the side chest and abdomen and to hone concentration

dandasana

Dandasana maintaining lift in side chest

prop virasana

Virasana with lift in side chest

upavistha konasna

Upavistha Konasana to recirculate knees and lift chest

supta baddha konasana

Supta Baddha Konasasna with bolster. If you don’t have a bolster use this setup of blankets.

pranayama blankets

setu bandha

Setu bandha on blocks with feet same level as hips

viparita karani

Viparita Karani (omit if menstruating and do Savasana instead)

If you don’t have bolster you can do Urdvha Prasarita Padasana against wall

legs up wall

Savasana

savasana

Note there is no time for each pose. Hold as long as you are getting benefit from them, but don’t overstay your welcome if you become agitated. You can even repeat poses until you feel you have gained the benefit from them as well.

Enjoy your practice and blessings to you all!

(Photo above is my niece in supported Triangmukaipada Paschimottanasana with Disney chair).

 

 

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.

django

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!!!

The vast expansion of Prasarita Padottanasana

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Prasarita Padottanasana, or Expanded Intense Stretch of the Leg Pose, is a gateway to all the forward bends. With legs stretching to their outer limits, this pose allows the practitioner to open the chest widely, conquer fear, and experience actions of an inversion with the legs firmly planted into the ground.

You will need a sticky mat, and 2 blocks for the setup.

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First start in Tadasana.

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Jump or walk the legs 4 to 5 feet apart. This is the widest base of all the standing asanas.

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To assure proper alignment, place the heels at the rear of the sticky mat so you can see they are on the same plane. See that the toes are pointed forward and press back from the top thigh to set the knees firmly into the socket.

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Keeping the base of the pose firm, extend your torso forward and place your finger tips on the ground. The extra height with the fingertips will assist in concaving your back. This is stage I.

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Stage I

If you cannot concave your back with hands on the floor, use blocks.

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Stage I with blocks

A common mistake here is having the weight in the heels. I am using the plumb line of this wall to illustrate what the pose looks like with the with the weight too far back. This stems from abhinivesa, which is “clinging to life, and fear of death” according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We don’t want to fall forward. So we have to trust our strong legs to support us to overcome this obstacle in yoga.

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To correct, tilt forward until the hip is over the ankle on a vertical plane.

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Another mistake at this stage is to overarch the lower back and poke out the tailbone. I often see this in flexible students.

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Incorrect tailbone

To correct, anchor the tailbone down and lift from the upper back to get the concavity.

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Correct tailbone

Now the real work in the pose begins. You have to challenge the back to keep it’s concave shape and challenge the legs to be firm and straight as you walk the hands back. First bring the hand to be even with the toes.

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Then the heels

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Then bend the elbows to 90 degrees, place palms and crown of the head onto the floor. The back goes from concave to convex here.

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If the head cannot reach the floor, first make sure your hips are coming forward. If they are, then use a block.

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Work the arms by rolling them in toward each other. If your elbows are splaying, imagine you have a block in between and squeeze the block. I used a real block to illustrate, even though this block is too narrow for my shoulders it gives you an idea of how to work the arms in this position.

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Now you are in the full pose. This is preparing you for inversions. The arm position is the same as Salamba Sirsasana II. Notice the crisp, 90 degree angle of the arms. For beginners, just touch and go. If you are proficient, stay in this stage for 30 seconds. You can build your time up to several minutes.

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To safely exit the pose, bring the hands back underneath the shoulders.

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Then heel-toe the feet together.

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When the outer hips feel they are stable, press your toes down bring the hands to the hips and come back to standing.

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Back to Tadasana

tadasana

This pose is considered the most accessible in the forward bend clan (Paschima Pratana Sthiti). For my raw beginner students, I keep them at Stage I (see above) and have them work the thighs pressing back.