Why I hate being adjusted in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

Here’s an incomplete list of the Ashtanga teachers who have adjusted / assisted me in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana:

  • Tim Miller, numerous times
  • Jörgen Christiansson, lots
  • Maria Zavala, often
  • Jodi Blumstein
  • Leigha Nicole
  • Nancy Gilgoff
  • Kate O’Donnell
  • Robert Moses
  • Annie Pace
  • Bobbie, of course
  • Danny Paradise, I think
  • Sharath

Kate’s the most recent, on our Indian trip. (Her adjustment was a few days more recent than Robert’s. Also, a note: She’s been churning out some good thoughts about Mysore and the practice lately. Take a gander.) And she did it, as many of them have, despite my trying to get out of it, to — to steal a baseball term — shake them off.

Robert Moses, in white. One of the many who have battled my hamstring.
Robert Moses, in white. One of the many who have battled my hamstring.

I don’t try to weasel out of this adjustment for what I expect is the usual reason: the extra stretch the teacher can provide … produces sensations. (Is that the nice way of saying, “It hurts?”) I can manage a pretty decent stretch on my own, thanks to / despite my inflexibility.

That inflexibility, I know, makes me a tempting target for this adjustment.

The reason I try to avoid this adjustment is because I know how cruel it is on the teacher. My legs weigh a lot. And when they yank them up there, I’m not able to offer much aid in keeping them aloft. So I am caught worrying about the brunt they’re bearing and if I could end up being part of an injury to them.

This tends to throw me off my game. My focus, already tenuous enough, really wavers. “Is she having to grit her teeth?” “How much is he regretting doing this?” “I wish he were shorter.”

When Sharath came over to adjust me in it — one of a many adjustments I received, in the only class I’ve taken with him — I even gave him the “If you want, but it won’t be pretty” look (a sort of raised eyebrows, pursed lips look).

He plunged ahead. Teachers don’t tend to take me up on my implied, or even explicit, offer to let them bypass me. That’s because, as I’ve talked about before, I’ve been lucky in working with good teachers. Their professionalism and warm assistance, of course, just makes my worry and fretting even greater. If they were bad teachers, I wouldn’t care.

Anyone else have this issue with a pose or poses?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

10 thoughts on “Why I hate being adjusted in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana”

  1. Have you ever adjusted someone in UHP? It’s one of the less strenuous adjustments there is – short of down dog.

  2. This is by far the hardest pose for me. I have flat feet, which don’t help much! While everyone is sitting on the floor whining that they can’t bind in Mari D, I have always been able to wrap my arms around quite easily. But stand on one foot, while the other is in the air? And then touch my NOSE to my SHIN?? Fat chance. When I was in Mysore, Sharath helped me a lot with this pose. He almost booted me into beginner’s ashtanga because he said, and I quote “You look like you don’t know what you’re doing”. After 5.5 weeks of being in India, I could actually do the pose without falling into my neigjbors and creating a raucus. Now, I need help with going into it further and i LOVE the adjustments in this pose.

    I think the other pose that helped me be able to do hasta padda is navasana. I didn’t have enough muscles in my tummy. Sharath kept telling me “hold in here”, pressing into me right under my rib cage when he helped me with Hasta Padda. After weeks of being able to hold navasana (without cheating) at Sharath’s SLOWwwww count i developed the muscles I needed to at least be able to stand on one foot for Hasta Padda.

    As for feeling bad about making your teachers work? That’s what they’re there for – that’s what you pay them for. Sharath may be small but he’s strong as an ox and i’ve seen him adeptly handle body types of all kinds. He knows what he’s doing – and he helps people who he thinks needs it the most – that’s his purpose, that’s what makes him feel good. You have every right to be adjusted!! That’s what you’re in the classes for!

    1. I agree with you on liking the adjustment for this pose (I can’t go so far as to say love, to keep my consistency). As for feeling bad — it just in the moment feels above and beyond the call of duty. I’m always happy for the adjustments, because I know I need them, but this one, when they brace themselves and lock their arm against their body, feels like I’m asking a bit much.

  3. Haha, don’t worry. I am a small female and I adjust large muscular males in this pose all the time and it’s fine. If it was a danger to the teacher, the teacher wouldn’t do it. I can hook my elbow on to the top of my pelvis, and it just holds my arms right up. EASY! don’t worry about your teacher, just worry about your dristi and bandhas! 😉

  4. Here’s my UHPG “trick”. Really find samastitihi on the standing leg – then, concentrate on lifting U-bandha up and in, making the spine long with prana, upward energy, and at the same time, use your apana – the downward energy – in your back body to lift the leg from behind.

    What do I mean by this?

    Think of your hip joint as a stationary rope “pulley.” Draw it in a bit, but maintain it’s fluidity of movement. In lifting the leg, the hip flexor can’t do all the work to lift your leg by itself, especially if you are long-legged – that leg feels really heavy! You must “help” the leg to rise upwards with both the front of your body, “pulling” the leg upwards, AND you must also use the back of your body, with a downward “push” through the back hip of the extended leg. You lift or push the leg up from behind as well. (And, of course, don’t hike the hip out to the side, keep dropping the back hip DOWN.) “Scoop” the sit bone – ischial tuberosity – of the extended leg down and forward.

    The two forces – prana and apana – work in conjunction like one rope – and the fluid but stationary hip joint is the pulley. Yes?

    (Look here to get what I mean – http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/engines-equipment/pulley.htm)

    And, yes, finding navasana helps this work as well. Same forces of apana and prana at play there. (Note: finding a light and open purvottanasana is the key to “finding” an easier navasana, btw.)

    To recap – the front body is very strong – there’s prana, lifting energy, helping to lift the leg in the front. But, the back body is working equally with the front, sending energy down – apana – through the sit bone and hamstring of the extended leg, lifting or pushing, really, from behind and below.

    Works like a charm.

    (I didn’t realize I had a “back” body for years in my practice, but focused only on the bandhas in the front of my body to do most of the work. But, when I found the back body and apana (props to Richard Freeman – aka Mr. “Cobra Hoody”), and starting using that energy as well, in all my postures, asana practice became much, much easier.)

  5. Steve, that’s why I bend my knees, put your ankle on my shoulder and slowly stand up. Work from the legs, man! No problem.

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