Stiff yoga guide: Virabhadrasana A & B

I suppose I’ve sort of touched on parts of these poses during the Surya B entry early on in this series. But let’s see what we might be doing a little differently during these poses.

(I suppose there’s also this for a guide, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

And my disclaimer: These are tweaks I’m making, drawn from any number of Ashtanga teachers’ suggested modifications, as I try to find the fundamentals of the practice and maybe loosen up my hamstrings, among other parts, in the process.

So. The Warriors.

Well, do you start off after shooting back from Utkatasana? That’s a dynamic way to start, but as I noted in my last “stiff yoga” post, holding plank for a breath/second after just stepping back can work your arms and shoulders more (theoretically more of a concern for the target audience of these posts), and when you get to Warrior I, that strain/effort may continue.

There’s something to be said for each way, I guess I mean.

First thing with Warrior I, of course, is that by now — versus that Surya B — one ought to be a bit warmer and be able to settle down into the pose a bit more. Front thigh parallel to the floor, right? It isn’t impossible. For the stiffer, it is probably a worthwhile aspect of the pose to think about, one that is “attainable” — to put quotes around that word to forestall any responses to its use. You know what I mean.

I find — speaking from the stiff POV — that ensuring my torso is facing forward can be a challenge. Something more to think about. As is trying to get the arms straight. (I’m pretty sure this is the first pose in which Tim Miller said to me: “This isn’t Egyptian yoga.”)

That might be my tristana for this pose: focus on the front thigh, trying to keep the arms straight and shifting the torso forward.

It’s also quite the hip check at this point. I think I’ve determined, after years of this yoga thing, that the hips are one of those sneaky “I didn’t have any idea I could be stiff there” places. If you are stiff, it’ll come through like this: a twinge right at the crease where you leg hits your hip. A wonderful additional stiff spot to add to the list.

I suppose, after Warrior I, that Warrior II feels like a bit of a relief. But it only feels that way, because chances are your arms — straight out front and back, of course — aren’t as straight or parallel to the ground as you think. They may be off-kilter in any number of directions, up or down, left or right. And there needs to be some strength in them — I’ve had teachers push down gently to make sure enough “energy” is happening.

This pose is one — as, sigh, all seem to be — to think about Mula Bandha. And to breath into your upper chest, expanding front, sides, back. I’d say that proper breath is a good thing to focus on here.

Do you want to come out of the pose the fancy, legs flying way? Give it a go. I know some people worry that, because you only do it on one side, it leaves you a little unbalanced.

But who said unbalanced is bad?

Posted by Steve

Stiff yoga guide: Surya Namakara B

If you missed Part 1 of my I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this feature, it is right here. It might be worth a look as I won’t re-state details from Surya Namaskara A.

As a reminder, here’s the thinking behind this:

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.

I do want to add that all the little tweaks and quirks we’ve added in have some root in advice we’ve gotten from Tim Miller, David Swenson, Maria Zavala and, I’m sure, others. It’s that these seem to be working for me; they may not work in this combo for anyone else. Or they might!

On to Surya Namakara B. And a reminder: SRG = stiff resistant guy.

  • As with A, the arms moving up as the knees bend seems to feel best just slightly forward of the body. And it just may be difficult to bring those palms together. So what? Keep the arms straight in an effort to get the shoulder blades loosened up.
  • Keep the arms straight as you fold forward from that bent-knee position. I’m finding it tough to get the weight on my big toes at this point (the ongoing inner rotation issue).
  • I mentioned I’m taking my feet out wide in Down Dog. For the brief ones during the moving into / out of the Warrior pose, I’ve got them more in line with my shoulders, aka “the right way.” But it is just because it is easier to bring the feet forward into Warrior.
  • What’s the rush? I know we’re supposed to get right up to Warrior on one inhale, but sometimes — the first one or two in the morning — I’m stiff. So the first breath gets me up into a too-high Warrior, with arms still down. On the exhale I settle down more, try to get the front thigh as parallel to the floor as possible, think about how straight ahead my upper body is. And then on the next inhale, arms up, head up.
  • I’ve been finding that keeping the arms parallel to each other, rather than bringing the palms together, seems to offer more loosening potential for my shoulders. I also think in some ways it is more difficult — you can’t brace your arms on one another. I know some folks love the “hands in a pistol” option. But… so un-yogic!
  • It might be worth trying to get through the so-called Surya Namaskara B + . For those unfamiliar, it includes five-breath Warriors. It provides a little more time to learn where your body should be and some time to work out some kinks. It also gives you time to answer this question: Is the outside of your back foot (the pinkie toe side) on the mat when you’re in Warrior?
  • When I get to the five breaths in Down Dog, as you probably guessed, I have my feet mat’s width again.
  • Here’s been a little challenge / quirk: When I was doing this pose with some “cheating,” i.e. bending knees in forward fold, it was easy to move into the chair pose or whatever we want to call the first/last move. But now when keeping my legs as straight as possible, I sometimes lift right up to Samasthiti.

You can probably figure out which pose will come next.

Posted by Steve