Sunday, January 28, 2007

Last weekend, I went to a workshop at the Yoga Coop in Madison, led by Chris Saudek, a Senior Intermediate Iyengar teacher from La Crosse. The focus was forward bends and twists, with a few inversions at the end. The approach was All Iyengar: each pose was identified only by its Sanskrit name; we held each pose for about 3-5 mins. and we concentrated on lengthening the “dorsal spine” (opposite the sternum) to align the torso. It was very careful and intense and, although we were all stretched out at the end of class, several of us almost fell down the stairs we were so loose (myself included).

One pose we worked on for awhile was Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose), never a favorite of mine. But the way we approached it was different than I was used to, and the opening I felt when I was done was new. It works diagonally across the back, so after completing one side you can feel how uneven you are until you finish with the opposite side. I won’t say that it’s replaced Down Dog as my favorite, but its standing has improved. Here’s how we did it…

Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana
1. Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with the spine long and aligned. Then slide the left knee to the side and, using both hands, gently roll the shin and top of the foot towards the floor. Try and line your heel up with the center of your perineum, but don’t loose the length in the lower back. Extend the left leg to the side so that your legs make a 90-degree angle. Keep the left big toe and knee pointed towards the ceiling.

2. Sit tall and concentrate on lifting the side ribs and lining the shoulders up with the hips. Start twisting to the right (towards the bent knee), concentrating the twist in the lumbar spine.

3. Keeping the twist in the waist and the length in the spine, start folding towards the extended left leg (leaning backwards, sort of). Slide your left hand along the left leg, or lower onto your forearm if you can still keep the spine long. With each exhale, deepen the twist as you lengthen the thoracic spine (the spine behind the rib cage). Place your hand flat on the floor to assist the twist, or take hold of your foot.

4. Bring the right arm straight up and then drop is slightly to the back to increase the twist. Then bring it to your right hip, or, if it doesn’t affect the length of the spine, reach over and take hold of the other side of your left foot. Breathe deeply and try to extend into the pose every few breaths.

5. Slowly release the hands and bring the torso upright. Untwist and then return the legs back to Staff Pose. Repeat on the other side.

6. After you’ve finished the left side, give yourself time to release in a supported relaxation pose (Savasana-Corpse Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana-Reclined Bound Angle Pose). And, whatever you do, be careful on the stairs when you’re done! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.

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