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.
If you want to consider it this way, business is now about to pick up when it comes to our run through my inspired by stiffness Ashtanga (sort of?) practice.
You can search “stiff yoga guide” and get the past ones (or just click here). As a reminder, the basic gist:
My back-to-basics approach definitely has me feeling and thinking like the beginner I am, or ought to be. As I move through week two, and a few fundamentals continue to guide me, I realize there are some specific adjustments happening in the poses I’m doing that, perhaps, might make the practice more welcoming to stiff, resistant would-be (but probably claim to be “never-be”) Ashtangis.
I was one of those, for many years.
There you have it. And here you have my tweaks (basically distilled from probably a handful of teachers and specifically ordered upon me by Bobbie, who will hate my saying that almost as much as the way I said it [passive tense]):
Here’s the biggest highlight: Only in Trikonasana (on both sides) do I not modify these poses and the ones that follow so significantly that I know some of the stricter Ashtanga teaches would really try to “correct me.” (I know because I’ve seen a few do so, though not to me. I know how to hide much better than that.)
For me, the key in Trikonasana is to think about being up against a wall. Have you actually tried it that way? I can wait. There, that was probably enough time, unless you had to go into the next room to find enough wall space. It really gives you a sense of alignment, I guess.
I’m not reaching for my toes. I’m not sure in any of these poses I’ll ever be reaching for my toes. I’m about mid-calf.
Here’s a variation, which I do sometimes, sometimes not: I don’t look at my upper hand. I might stare straight ahead (toward what in our practice room is the opposite wall). I’m trying to make room for my shoulders.
With reverse Trikonasana, my lower hand gets a bit below my knee — but I’m careful not to exert a bunch of lateral force on it.
My “upper arm” in reverse Trikonasana? It isn’t upper! I wrap is around my waist, as comfortably as possible, in order to emphasize the twist and not get caught up in trying to shove my tight shoulder skyward. Yes! Very bad man. But it also opens up more space in my chest, which helps with breathing. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can be difficult to breath in the twisting poses.