Sunday, March 14, 2010

Notes from today's posture clinic

This morning's Bikram class was especially quiet for a Sunday, probably due to Daylight Savings Time and people not wanting to get out of bed an hour earlier to do yoga. The fewer number of yogis in the room meant that the teacher had greater opportunity to focus on each of us individually. And lucky for me, she was willing to break away from the dialogue and give us some tips to help us take our practice to the next level.

There were four poses in particular that she helped me with today:

Standing Head to Knee (Dandayamana - JanuShirasana)
This is definitely one of the toughest postures in the series. In fact, it took me an entire year before I could kick out my leg.

The advice that the teacher gave me is not to use my hands to hold up my leg. Instead, I need to fully contract my thigh to keep my leg outstretched. As a test, she suggested letting go of my foot while in the pose to ensure that my leg is doing all the work. If it moves at all, my hands are helping to hold it up.

Standing Separate Leg Stretching (Dandayamana - Bibhaktapada - Paschimottanasana)
I'm a ro
ck star in this pose! I can easily touch my forehead to the floor, and my spine is perfectly straight from the coccyx to the neck. But, as the teacher pointed out, it's too easy for me to touch my forehead, which means I need to take a narrower stance. Instead of four feet, she suggested I step out two and a half feet. I tried this in the second set and it was impossible to touch my forehead to the floor. As she explained, touching your forehead is a goal you need to constantly work towards. To get maximum benefit, it should always feel challenging. I guess I'm no longer going to be a rock star in this one!

Cobra (Bhujangasana)
Cobra is one of those poses that I can sometimes do really well, but it's hit or miss. Rather than keeping my toes and heels together, the teacher suggested I separate them. Then she stood on my feet as I lifted up my chest. Voila! I instantly achieved much greater height than I usually do. And I could really feel it in my lower back.

Locust (Salabhasana)
I'm able to achieve pretty good height with my legs in the third stage of Locust. I've never seen it myself, but teachers always comment that I'm very strong in this posture.

Today, the teacher suggested that I push my weight more forward onto my shoulders, which will allow me to get my legs up over my head (as in the picture to the left). It seems that I'm relying solely on my arm strength to lift my legs, and that my shoulders aren't touching the floor at all. She said that because I already have good height with my legs, getting my shoulders on the floor will enable me to reach the full expression of this pose.

Lots of great advice in today's class. Despite practicing this yoga consistently for almost two years, there's still so much more for me to learn. And I'm up for the challenge!


  1. Thanks for following my blog, Chrissy (and me on Twitter! :-)

    How cool that you can rock out separate-leg-stretching. I'm not quite there :-) But there is always somewhere to go, right? One of my teachers has an amazing forward bend, and her stance is, I'm not kidding you, less than 3 feet. And she gets her forehead on the floor! Incredible...

  2. I always love those moments when a teacher takes extra time with me {or another student} and suddenly I have a whole new insight into a posture. I've been trying to keep my chin to my shoulder as I go into Standing Bow and it takes all my concentration but it completely changes the pose for me.

  3. Whoops... keep those feet together in cobra! Come up halfway only, belly button stays on the floor. It's not about height. Feet apart is a different posture. Was that Teish? Tsk tsk!! She's got an AWESOME full cobra, and full cobra is an awesome posture, but it's not in the beginner's series!! Sorry... The rest sounds rock solid. :)