Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not-so Easy Pose

Well, one thing is for sure, there is no such thing as just five minutes. I’ve been working on resolution #2 for four days and if I don’t choose a supported pose to hold, I start to have trouble after about two-and-a-half minutes. On Jan. 1 and 2, I decided to try Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) and Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Each time I sat with my back against the wall so I had some support. The five minutes passed quickly and I stayed a little longer because the poses were so restful and comfortable. On the 3rd, I cheated, and didn’t do my own yoga…but I did teach that day, so there was some yoga (the resolutions get broken so fast).

Yesterday I settled into Dandasana (Staff Pose) in the middle of the floor without any support. I tried to focus on my breathing, while occasionally realigning my spine and grounding thru the back of the legs. I just rested my arms at my sides. Halfway into the pose, my quadriceps (top and outside of the thighs) began to burn and it was all I could do to keep adjusting and breathing steadily. I added an extra pose that day, because I had to flop into Savasana (Corpse Pose) just to give my legs a rest after Staff. Whew.

I think it’s going to be awhile before I try anything really challenging like Parsvakonasana (Lateral Angle) or Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3).

Here are some suggestions for making various poses more supported. Even if you don’t have a-pose-a-day resolution, it’s a nice way to end the day and you still can get some benefits without overdoing it. Most poses can be done against the wall, so that you can lean slightly back; others can be done with a chair support the torso. Even the belt can give you some help, so you can stay aligned longer.

Up Against the Wall
Most standing poses can be done against the wall to either remove the need for balance or to help support an element of the pose that normally requires strength. Trikonasana (Triangle), Parsvakonasana (Lateral Angle), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) or Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) can be done with the back of the hips gently resting against the wall. The backs of the heels should be an inch or two away so that you don’t fall forwards. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) can be done with a block between the shin (below the knee cap) of the bent knee and the wall, as you stand with your side to the wall; you will find that you can bend that knee a bit deeper and hold the pose longer with the help from the block.

Various inversions can also happen against the wall. You will find that it is easier to be aligned in Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand), Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-legged Forward Bend), when done at the wall. You can more easily line the upper and the lower body in Head- and Shoulder Stand, and keep the hips over the ankles in the Forward Bend.

Many sitting poses will be good for meditation or breathing exercises if you lean. The aforementioned Easy and Bound Angle Poses, for example, or even Staff and Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide-Angle Pose) are much more relaxing if the back is against the wall. Even Virasana (Hero Pose) would benefit from the extra alignment, although you’ll need to give yourself a little space for the toes or place a block between the shoulder blades and the wall.

Help from a Chair or a Belt
In many forward bends, you can rest your head and/or chest on a chair or stool. By relaxing the torso onto a support, often times the hips will release and you can stay in the position longer. Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend) and Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend) both work this way.

We often use the belt as an extension of the arms, but, as a long loop, it can also aid in challenging poses. In Bound Angle Pose, you can loop it around the top of the pelvis and over the outside edge of the feet to help keep the knees bent, so you can concentrate on the opening of the hip joints. That same loop can help in Navasana (Boat Pose)—in this pose, the belt wraps around the entire body, across the middle back and behind the thighs, so that you can focus on leaning back on the sitbones and lifting the chest rather than on keeping the legs lifted.

The block has its own series of support functions, but I think that’s a discussion for next week. Let me know you can come up with some other modifications and I’ll post those too. Good luck and good relaxing! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.

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