My yoga Achilles’ Heel is my Achilles’ Heel

David Garrigues has a new “asana kitchen” piece up, which is extra notable for two reasons:

  1. He provides plenty of written direction to go along with the video.
  2. This: “About six months ago I came out with an Asana Kitchen on Pasasana. In that video I briefly touched on the tight achilles tendon and how that obstructs creating a nice grounded posture. There are two asanas that help stretch the tendon and they are Down Dog and *Utkatasana*.”

It was just a couple of weeks ago, thanks to my Rolfing work, that I realized just how much my tight Achilles’ tendons are holding me back:

Next up, assisted drop backs. As I wait, I toy around with it. And I picture others I see dropping back and how their knees move forward (toward the top of the mat), cantilevering to an extent. I try that.

My knees do not want to move forward. And I feel why: My ankles are having nothing to do with this movement.

And I’m right back to Sun Salutes, and my inability to get my heels down. There isn’t the flexibility to get my knees and legs forward enough to counter-balance the drop back.

So it isn’t just my shoulders I’m fighting here.

And so I’m going to pay extra attention to what he has to say. Here’s the part on tight heels, but there is a ton before that worth a look (I think I’m safe in saying that without any Friday asana aid issues arising):

If you have tight achilles tendons, or you have trouble getting the hips low while staying forward, you’ll want to shift your weight forward so that the balls of the feet receive more weight than the heels.  Think ‘light heels, heavy toes’.   You may even need to place some added support and height (a rolled mat/towel or block) under your heels in order to get a true feeling for the fierceness of this posture.

If you are tight and are struggling with the posture you can keep both the arms and legs slightly separated.  As you loosen up and gain mobility move the arms and legs closer together.

I’m happy to say I can keep my arms together in this pose; I also have to admit I’ve heard Tim Miller say, “Arms straight. Arms straight? Straight?” more than a few times.

Coincidence or not, I’ve been spending extra time in Utkatasana this week while practicing at home, and the inward rotation of the legs he’s talked about has come naturally (as a result of Rolfing’s putting that idea in my head). I’m finding it also works the psoas and hips pretty significantly, if  you double (or even triple) the amount of time you spend in the pose. It can be a remarkable intense, or as David stresses “fierce” pose, if you focus on it enough.

But that’s true for all the asanas, really, isn’t it?

There’s a helpful video to go along with David’s instructions at his blog.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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