Sunday’s Ashtanga lesson: Bandhas can keep you from vomiting

As I’ve made clear in a few earlier posts, a busy February means to intrude upon my preparation for the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence.

Lots of travel combined with a handful of early meetings and, voila!, I don’t expect to be quite as focused and “in the zone” as I’d like. We’ve had some interesting debate about what being focused and prepared means. All that aside, I just hope to be able to get the most out of the Confluence I can. And February isn’t lining up in a way that’s conducive to a little extra prep toward that end.


Well, I assume Bobbie informed our teacher in Los Angeles, Jörgen Christiansson, of this. Because after Sunday’s Mysore class, he pulled me aside and we figured out how our schedules lined up, and he’s offered to come in early on those days I can make it in — and I’m, obviously, making sure I make it on those days — to provide a little extra help, guidance and inspiration.

And least, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. Because before he offered that, He. Went. To. Town. On. Me.

Perhaps I can be more clear: He. Went. To. Town. On. My. Hamstrings. And. My. Hips. And. My. Shoulders.

He did so via:

  • Four adjustments in the Surynamaskaras, with extra emphasis on straightening out my legs.
  • Padahastasana.
  • Prasarita padottanasana.
  • Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. (And we all know that one is not easy for the teacher.)
  • Paschimottanasana.
  • He got to me when I was on my left side of Marichyasana A. Helped. And then had me do the right side again.
  • The deepest Kurmasana ever. He took his time.
  • Several verbal cues during the rest of the practice.
  • Amazingly, no Baddha Konasana!

I’m sore today, although I did manage a near hour-long practice at home this morning. (This week is one of the really bad weeks this month.) I can feel it from my calves, to my hamstrings, my hips, my lats to my shoulders.

But I want to focus for a second on the Prasarita and Utthita Hasta combo. (Thank you, Parsvottanasana, for coming in between them.)

When I write that I got a Prasarita adjustment, you’re likely thinking, “Oh, the dreaded C one.”

You’re right. But not completely right.

Jörgen adjusted me in each one. Leaned me forward, using my own body weight to increase the stretch. Not once. Not twice. All four times.

When he was done, and I somehow managed to pull myself upright, I honestly thought I was going to throw up. (Quick sidenote: I had a great personal trainer a few years ago who would give you a fear session if you threw up. I never did, though. Does the same apply in Ashtanga?)

My hamstrings and hips were screaming and my stomach was not in knots but curling up into knots.

Enter my bandhas. I locked down Mula and Uddiyana as much as possible, and prayed.

And after a few seconds — oh, yeah, I’d lost my breath at this point — all was well.

Until Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, when I went through it all again, Jörgen telling me to straighten my leg, straighten it, straighten… but the bandhas pulled us through unscathed.

And somehow I made it through the rest of practice. I don’t think I even accidentally skipped any poses. But who knows?

What I do know is, if this does keep up, I may be “ready” for the Confluence after all.

(Bonus Sunday Ashtanga lesson: A good teacher can make a heck of a lot of difference.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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