Stiff yoga guide: The Parshvakonasanas

Hey! We’re getting somewhere, right? Approaching half-way through the fundamental, standing poses.

As a reminder, a month-long effort to get back-to-basics and try to loosen up some of my intransigent stiffness led me to highlight some of the for-stiff-people modifications I’ve got going on in my somewhat like Ashtanga practice. At least a few people responded positively, so we are keepin’ on.

I’ve had varying degrees of “Bad man” adjustments in the poses up to this point. But now, well, there’s no turning back.

This one involves a yoga block.


For Parshvakonasa, I’ve got a block under the hand that’s on the floor (as opposed to the one in the air; I know, no duh). The point here is to emphasize the alignment. I try to imagine I’m as flat as possible against a wall. (I suppose I could go and move over against a wall for this and Trikonasana, but I am trying to maintain the breath/movement/vinyasa aspect of the practice as much as possible.) Not over-extending down to the floor also seems to have helped with the bandha engagement — I guess moving down too much counters the lifting of Uddiyana bandha?

I also, instead of lifting the top arm over my head and out in front of me, I’m wrapping it down around my back, landing my hand almost near my waist. This, too, seems to be helping with the alignment and stretch or twist of the pose.

Then here’s a neat trick. As you finish the first side and move up with your breath, you can hand off the block from the right hand to the left in a fluid, behind-the-back motion. One thing I certainly don’t like about blocks and other props is that, I’ve found, they tend to disrupt the natural movement of the vinyasas. Here, at least for me, that’s not a problem.

In the twisted or reverse version of the pose, I do something I’ve actually heard an Ashtanga teacher yell at a student not to do — I leverage the lower elbow against my front leg and press my palms together. My fingers are pointed toward my face and I’ve created, more or less, a square with my arms.

Apparently, for some teachers, this is very bad!

For me, though, it helps with the twist and, again, keeps me from over-extending down toward the floor.

Oh, and I should point out — one focus is always on keeping the back foot flat on the floor. If I had a dime for every time Tim Miller has pressed down on the outside of my foot in these poses, I’d probably have a couple more bucks to my name.

As I noted above, this is a pose that I seem to be able to find/isolate both Mula and Uddiyana bandhas. If you’re trying to instruct someone on these mysteries, perhaps this is a pose to work with to that end.

Finally: To finish, perhaps, our coverage of the rape last December in New Dehli: All four men found guilty have been sentenced to death.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “Stiff yoga guide: The Parshvakonasanas”

  1. Canada doesn’t have the death penalty it was abolished in the 60’s. The death penalty doesn’t seem to deter people from murder as the U.S. can attest. As of April 1st 2013 there are 3,108 inmates on death row. In many countries they have public executions and people still commit murder. How would I feel if my daughter was murdered? Good questions. If I listened to the doctors here my daughter would be dead already. I fear for my daughter’s life when we enter hospitals because they like to make life and death decisions on others behalf. Yet I find a way to work with these people. I find Indians demanding the death penalty a little lustful. i”ve never traveled to India but i’ve been to Indonesia which has about as much poverty and shared several of the same religions in the past. It’s judgmental on my part but killing these men is as much murder as the murder they committed and unfortunately it won’t stop killing and rape. It seems they are going to execute these men just to stop the country from rioting but they will riot again the next time a woman is raped and killed. We all know how many people have been wrongly imprisoned in the U.S. and I can only imagine how corrupt the system is in India. i’m totally against the men being killed in India it’s not going to solve a thing. They should send these men to prison and make them make license plates for the rest of their lives and the money should be given as restitution to the family of the victim.

  2. The thing about hands in prayer position — Its a perfectly fine modification, but . . . Often folks who do this over time create a mindset where the pressure of the lower elbow is used to effect the twist — the closer the knee is to the elbow joint the easier to push the twist. Ultimately, however, the goal is to get the lower armpit closer to the knee — a position that is less compatible with the prayer modification. One approach is to do both . . . use the prayer position to work the twist, then let it go and simply try to get the armpit closer to the knee.

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