Tag Archives: purva pratana sthiti

Chatuse Padasana: four feet firmly on the foundation

Chatuse Padasana, or four footed pose, has two distinct functions. First it is a universally  accessible and easy-to-do backbend. You will get all the backbend benefits without all the fear and mental roadblocks you’ll find in other back bending asanas. But the second function and the real magic of this pose is that it introduces the proper shoulder actions in Salmaba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose, or shoulder stand).  It also begins to introduce the Jalandara Bandha sternum-to-chin action that will be found in more complex poses later. I teach this to all of my basic students to get them to work towards shoulder stand.

First, you will need a sticky mat and a strap:

Chatuse padasana 1

Next, roll the spine flat onto the floor using the same instructions from my Savasana post. Please note the head is on the slippery floor and the shoulders are on the sticky mat. This is deliberate.

Chatuse padasana 2

Raise the feet and place the strap over the front of the shins.

Chatuse padasana 3

Then place the feet back on the floor with the heels right in front of the buttock bones with the toes pointed slightly inward.

Chatuse padasana 4

For those with knee issues, move the feet further away from the buttocks.

Chatuse padasana 5

Keeping the feet in place, lift the hips up slightly

Chatuse padasana 6

Shift the weight to the left side, and pull firmly on the right strap. Then externally rotate the right upper arm toward the floor. Notice how my chest puffs up when I do this. Then repeat on the other side. This is the important shoulder work I referred to earlier.

Chatuse padasana 8

Now you are ready for launch. The “four feet” are the upper arms and feet creating a platform to blast the hips into space. Inhale, then push shins toward the armpits and lift up the hips toward the ceiling. Try to move both sides of the body up symmetrically, like an elevator going up a floor.  Also move the sternum toward the chin. Pull firmly on the straps. Hold for a few breaths (and don’t hold your breath)!

Chatuse padasana 9

Exhale and lower the buttocks back to the floor. Repeat several times. The more you do, the better your mood will get! Endorphins are released in backbends creating a euphoria in the mind of the practitioner. Just don’t get too caught up in it.

Chatuse padasana 10

It is also advisable to do a spine neutralizing pose like a wide downward dog after backbends to de-contract the back muscles. For a back bending sequences, see the “yoga sequences” button on my blog menu.

wide ams


Have a wonderful practice!


A backbending sequence for beginning students

adho mukha svan with real dog

This week’s clan of poses at our studio are Purva Pratana Sthiti (backward extensions) commonly referred to as “backbends.” Where foward bends “cool” the nervous system, backbends “heat” or energize the nervous system. Here is my lesson plan for tomorrow’s Basic I class designed for people new to yoga or who want to rework the fundamentals.

Tadasana/Urdvha Hastasna (Mountain pose with upward facing hands)

urdvha hastasana

Utkatasana (Fierce Pose)


Adho Mukha Svanasana at wall (Downward facing dog pose)

penn studio

Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I pose)

vira I

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four limbed staff pose)


Bujangasana I (Cobra I pose) notice how arms are straight


Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward facing dog pose)

urdvha mukha svanasana

Salabhasana I (Locust I pose)


Ustrasana (Camel pose)


Chatuse Padasana (Four Footed Pose) note use of the strap to learn arm rolling out action

Chatuse padasana 9

Adho Mukha Svanasana arms and legs mat width to neutralize spinal muscles

wide ams



This sequence gradually contracts the back muscles which are released with the wide Adho Mukha Svanasna, so please don’t omit this pose from the sequence.  It is ill advised to do a deep forward bend immediately after a backbend. Why? Think of the spine as a wire hanger. If you bend a wire hanger back and forth it will break. Whereas if you bend it in the same direction, it gets stronger. If the back is tender after this sequence elevate legs on a chair or up the wall.

Have a wonderful practice!

Making the leap from the studio to a home practice


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.


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.

Origami, patience, and Parsvottanasana

ImageParsvottanasana, or Intense Stretch of the Side Body Pose, reminds me of the Japanese paper crane tradition. It is said that a bride before her marriage has to fold 1,000 origami paper cranes to cultivate the patience needed for a long marriage.

parsvottanasana (2)

Parsvottanasana, a pose with many intricate folds like a paper crane, takes patience to learn properly. You may have to do the pose 1,000 times before gaining proficiency.

The classic pose is taught with Paschima Namaskar (Gestured hands on the “west” or back side of the body). These look like prayer hands on your back. I will teach that first.

First, stand in Tadasana


Then take the hands behind the back with the fingers pointed downwards.

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Rotate the wrists until the fingers are pointed up the back.

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Then move the hands side to side, like Salmon swimming against a strong current until the back of the hand are on the shoulder blades.

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Then, like a book, close the shoulder blades to fold the hands together and open the chest. Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 2.38.21 PM


This is Paschima Namaskar.

paschima namaskar

If the wrists cannot be at the same level as the elbows due to tight shoulders, do Paschima Baddha Hastasana (Bound Hands on the West side of the body pose). Otherwise there will be too much load on the elbows.

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From here, jump the feet 3 to 3.5 feet apart (1 meter). Note this is a shorter stance than the previous standing poses.

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Lift the toes of the left foot and pivot sharply to the right.

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Then rotate your whole right leg to the side. Make sure the right heel is in line with the arch.

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Pressing firmly from the heel of the left foot, rotate the left hip so it is even with the right Then rotate your torso until the sternum bone is on the same plane as your right thigh.

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From here, press the hand into the back and lift from the sternum toward the chin, and the chin toward the ceiling. This stage creates tremendous lymphatic drainage in the neck.

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From here press firmly back with the left heel and extend the torso halfway down concaving the back.

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Keeping the sternum in line with the right leg, track your abdomen, chest, and chin down the right leg. This is the final stage of the pose. Beginners touch and go, more experienced students hold for 30 seconds.

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To come out of the pose, press the weight firmly in the back heel, press the hands into the back and come up with a concave spine.

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Rotate the feet facing forward.

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Jump the feet back together and release the hands. Be in Tadasana. Repeat the other side.


999 more to go….