Friday, March 03, 2006

Sixteenth Class

Week 6: Day 1

Greta’s birthday – we celebrated with a Sanskrit chant from Alanna and an offering of tapas from the class members, in the form of heat radiating from hands rubbed together. Interesting.

Dave encouraged us to accept where we are as teaching trainees and allow ourselves to continue developing.

We then reviewed garudasana – eagle pose. Eagle pose is symbolic of the eagle as a devourer. The pose restricts blood flows to the arms and legs, leading to a sense of release when the pose ends. The full expression of this pose requires a forward bend, elbows over knees, and hands at face (like the beak of an eagle). In moving into this pose, consider the eagle flying high over the water looking for prey.

Dancer’s Pose, nataranjasana, is an exercise in concentration, balance and coordination. It strengthens standing ankles and feet, strengthens groins. It requires close concentration to balance and avoidance of distraction. Tight visual focus is important, as well.

We then began working the corepower Triangle Pose series. For Triangle pose, utthita trikonasana, see:

In moving into this pose from Warrior 2, turn the back foot forward, feet in one line. Keep torso straight and in one plane (don’t twist it or crunch one side). Really work the external rotation of the front leg. Place hand on shin to get correct alignment – don’t go for the floor unless your torso is perfectly aligned at horizontal. Front knee should point toward the toes – not roll in. Cue students to lengthen both sides of the body/It doesn’t matter how close the hand comes to the ground. Adjusting students, standing on their dorsal side, and slightly ahead of them, take their front arm in yours; place the thumb of the hand of your back arm in their hip crease, the rest of your hand extended toward their glutes, and draw the front arm forward, while pushing firmly at the hip. Once the student is extended, release the adjustment and allow the student to drop the forward arm to the shin or floor. Emphasize that there is no prize for getting hand to floor. Cue tucking the front hip under the back. Inhale, reach forward; exhale reach more forward.

Triangle is good for legs and spine, engaging all muscles on the front and back of the body. For hyperextending students, cue a microbend to the front knee. Emphasize that the posture is not a twist – it’s a side bend. Consider the three angles of the pose to be beginning, middle, and end; A-U-M, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva; tall, grande, and venti.

We then reviewed the breath/pose cue sequence for Tree through prasarita padottanasana:

Cobra pose – bujanganasa: From belly-down savasana, cue hands beneath shoulders, inhale, lifting torso; keep feet together and toenails glued to the floor; no weight in the hands/lift hands slightly off the floor. The pose opens the heart, and relieves pressure from sciatica. The hands and feet are in the same mat positions in this pose as in Upward facing dog. Some students get butt-crunch issues in this pose. Remind them to relax the glutes, as you should do in all backbends. Note that when glutes are crunched in this pose, the heels will roll in, rather than out. Cue internal thigh rotation. Consider putting a block between students’ feet and instruct them to grip it as they perform the pose.

Bow Pose – dhanurasana: Same glute issues in this pose – consider using a block between the knees here. If knees are open wide, glutes are engaged and need to be relaxed. Watch students for breath-holding in this pose. Students’ bodies should move up with inhalation, down with exhalation. Ideally, knees and shoulders will be in the same horizontal plane, but most folk are more flexible in one aspect than the other. This pose helps relieve backache. In fact, the most therapeutic thing for back pain is back bends. The lumbar spine naturally has an inward curve. Backbends use and emphasize that curve. It’s the forward bends that can aggravate existing spine problems.

From Bow pose, students move to Camel, or ustrasana: Cues: Walk on your knees to the center of your mat. Place your knees hip-width distance apart. Push the tops of your toes into the floor. Put your hands on your lower back, like pushing them into the back pockets of your pants. Press hips firmly forward. Relax your neck and back into a backbend. Keep your hands at your lower back or reach palms to heels for deeper bend. Camel pose is the opposite of the position we hold ourselves in at desk work. It opens the aorta at the samt time that it compresses kidneys, where we hold anger, toxins, and several hormones. Those are released into the circulatory system. This pose precipitates in many people strong feelings of dizziness, nausea, and emotion. Camel pose shifted 90 degrees to the front becomes Bow pose. Camel pose shifted 90 degrees to the back becomes Bridge.

From Camel, students move to Bridge pose, or setu bandha sarvangasana: From savasana cue hands to sides, palms down; feet to glutes, hip distance apart; lift hips; bring hands together beneath uplifted back. Cue students to keep head and neck straight, cautioning them not to turn neck. If they want to see others in the pose, cue them to come out of it, first.

Reclining bound-angle pose, supta badda konasana

When practicing shoulderstand, salamba sirsasanana, have students draw their shoulderblades together enough to draw the prominence of the C7 vertebra into the space between the blades, lifting the prominence off the floor. This can be a point of pain for some students.