Sunday, April 18, 2010

Home Practice - Parsva Bakasana

Ah, spring...the perfect time to embrace change, scrub your home clean and wring out your organs with some twists (what a lovely trilogy). There's no reason why we can't combine them all into one practice. The correlation between housework and yoga is as yet undetermined, however I feel a strong connection to my abdominal obliques while vacuuming the dog hair off my antique oriental rug. This preparatory work leads nicely to Parsva Bakasana, an arm balance with innumerable opportunities to examine and even surmount your aversion(s) to change.

Props required:

golden retriever (for advanced practioners)
ironing board and iron

Preparatory poses:

This prep pose is extremely effective if vacuuming a small rug (4x6 to 5x8), where you will need to stabilize the rug with your feet to prevent it from sliding. Visualize pulling the sides of the rug together with your feet, which requires you to adduct your thighs - the same action necessary to squeeze your legs together in our peak pose. Bend your knees and draw the navel towards the spine to stabilize your lumbar. Use long, aggressive strokes and be sure to alternate sides as you vacuum (15-20 times per side).

An excellent workout for your abdominal obliques. To maximize your results, let your floors get really dirty so you'll have to do some serious scrubbing (for the advanced student: using eco-friendly cleaner is good for your home and your abdominals). Again, equal strokes on both sides.

This is a perfect restorative cool-down. Gentle twisting motions pair beautifully with the japa (repetition) of ironing, eliciting a relaxation response. Scenting your linens with a lavender spray adds a soothing aromatherapy component.

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
A fantastic prep pose for Parsva Bakasana. Adducting your thighs will help to align the pelvis and stabilize your sacrum. Take your time shimmying into the pose, using the inhale to lift the ribcage away from the front thigh and the exhale to deepen your twist. Press your front knee into your tricep and visa versa, simulating the connection necessary in our peak pose. A block can be used on the outside of the foot when exploring the final posture.
(Modifications: back heel at wall for stability, block on inside of front foot for space).

Parivrtta Trikonasana
Straight legs and an asymmetrical foundation make this pose an excellent lesson in finding the compactness of Parsva Bakasana. Strongly firm your outer hips in. Broaden the collar bones and exhale to rotate the torso. Hint: If placing your hand/block outside the front foot, move it behind your ankle which allows you to anchor your bottom forearm against your front shin. This provides both stability and leverage.
(Modifications: same as Parivrtta Parsvakonasana. Prasarita Padottanasana with a twist for beginners).

Peak Pose: Parsva Bakasana

There are many ways to come into Side Crow. I first learned this posture from Pasasana (twisting in a deep squat, ankles and knees together) with blankets under my heels. Blankets allow you to be there for a while and work the twist. Better yet, place those blankets a foot away from a wall (Pasasana with right hip facing wall first) and use your fingertips on the wall (nine o'clock and one o'clock, race car style) to aid in the rotation of your trunk. Repeat to the left. Bring those discoveries to the center of the room and place your hands on the floor (fingertips pointing in the direction of the twist). Squeeze your thighs together in the same way you practiced while vacuuming your rug and climb your knees as high up onto your arm as possible! Look forward, exhale and we have lift off!

Another entrance is via Marichyasana C. Sit up on at least two blankets, which (once your hands are on the floor) allows your knee to climb higher up your arm. Stage one is to lift the pelvis off the blankets - the beauty of this transition is that students can access the abdominal work necessary to one day practice Parsva Bakasana, regardless of whether or not their feet are off the floor. Assuming we're doing the right side first, stage two is to step the left foot in slightly and rest on the ball of the foot. Stage three is to lift the right foot off the ground and the final stage is to place the left leg on top. Voila! You'll find the pose in every stage.

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