I just posted another class that warms students up to practice One Footed King Pigeon Pose, Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana.
It includes lots of shoulder and hip flexor stretching and backbending. Check out a full yoga class sequence here.
In the full expression of the pose, the yogi’s head is touching the feet. However, for most of us mere mortals there will be some space there. If your shoulders are not flexible enough to reach back for the toes, use a strap around the ankle for support. Also, always remember to engage Uddyana Bandha when backbending.
At the start of each class, I ask students if there is a pose or body part that they would like to work on. One of the most frequent requests is for hip openers. It’s in the top 10 along with neck and shoulders. Hmmm…all places we commonly carry stress.
The anatomy of the hip is complicated to say the least and there is a spectrum of physical reasons our hips tighten. The desk jockey’s inactivity and the runner’s repetitive muscle contractions are just a couple.
There are also emotional reasons that cause the hips to feel closed off. In yoga, the pelvis is often referred to as the body’s ‘junk drawer’. It’s the perfect analogy. In it, we stuff experiences and emotions that we don’t know what else to do with. From an energetic anatomy perspective, the pelvis contains our first and second chakras, energy centers. The first chakra, muladhara, is located at the perineum and is associated with our root survival needs for nourishment and security. The second, svadhisthana, is just a couple of inches above muladhara and is associated with our sexuality and how we communicate with others. You can probably think of your own ‘junk’ related to these chakras that you have stashed in here.
Sequencing a yoga class is akin to choreographing a dance. Like a dance, a yoga class should have a sense of flow and feel coherent. At the same time, it should target a variety of postures to open energy channels throughout the body.
There are hundreds of basic yoga poses. Add to to those, the myriad variations of these postures and teachers have thousands of postures to choose from. Sorting through these variations to create a fluid and safe class sequence can be a real challenge. This challenge, luckily, doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start with a basic framework and add variety from there. Continue reading →
Once a week, I practice Ashtanga Second Series in a led class. Second Series is also known as Nadi Shodhana, meaning nerve cleansing. Nadi is the Sanskrit term for the energy pathways through our bodies. Nadi Shodhana purifies, opens and clears these energy pathways with a strong focus on back bends.
In the series, there is a sequence of 3 progressively-deeper kneeling back bends: Ustrasana (camel), Laghu Vajrasana (little thunderbolt), and Kapotanasana (pigeon). If you’re comfortable practicing deep back bends, such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (up-facing wheel), dropping back into a kneeling back bend is likely easier than the return trip. Let’s say dropping back equates to a trip from Cambridge to Boston; Sure, there’s a river in between, but gravity is on your side. Coming back up is more like a trip from Cambridge to Mysore; You can picture what it’s like, but have yet to make the trip.