What We Learned Today in Class:
In Alignment class today, we discussed Chaturanga Dandasana (4 limbed staff), Virabhadrasana I (warrior I), and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one leg king pigeon). With these of props and slow progressions, we explored safer transitions and applications of these postures.
In Chaturanga, we practiced using blocks under the shoulders to know where to stop when lowering down. We practiced shifting forward from plank before lowering down to line up the elbows and wrists. This line up is important to keep the foundation solid and the control in your arms. The chest shouldn't come to the floor in Chaturanga, instead try to keep the shoulders as high as the elbows, or higher. Another useful tool today that helped students know when to stop in Chaturanga was the yoga strap. Make a loop as wide as the center of your shoulder heads and place it just above your elbows. Lower into Chaturanga Dandasana and feel the strap stop your shoulders from going any lower than the your elbows. Imagine pressing your hips into a couple of blocks or a large bolster under your body and you will feel the line up happen. Pull these props out and try them all together to get the feel for the alignment in Chaturanga Dandasana. You will have shoulders, elbows, hips, and heels in line for your solid 4 limbed staff pose.
In Virabhadrasana I, we learned not to "square" the hips off. This is meant as a verb typically, but it sometimes turns into an expected, measurable outcome. Instead, look for toes, knee, and hip alignment of the back leg; these should all be pointing in the same direction. We also learned how to engage from feet to hands, without imbalance, by using a strap on the back leg (loop it around the back thigh and cinch it up) and with your hands push the strap above head from behind. This helped many students get out of low back pinch while engaging the arms overhead. Using the whole body in this posture prevents dumping in the low back, over usage of certain muscles, and helps create a more sattvic (balanced effort and ease) experience.
In Eka Pada Rajakapotasana we learned NOT to measure any part of our body with a rectangular yoga mat. In other words, never ever try to make your front shin parallel to the front edge of your mat. Start in table top and simply place one knee centered in between your hands. Place that same foot in front of the opposite leg. Stretch your back leg longer behind you, and in the process you will feel your front knee rotate in the degree it is safe for YOUR leg to rotate. Instead of starting with your knee already lined up with your wrist or the outside edge of your mat, line your leg up with your own body and let it happen naturally. This has proven to reduce knee pain commonly experienced in Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
Remember that this posture is not a forward fold, it is a back bend. In the preparatory phases of this posture you should be slowly deepening your backbend and opening the front hip of the back leg. If it is a deep hip opener you are looking for, switch to Agni Stambhasana (fire log posture). How to deepen the backbend here: slowly walk your hands in toward your hips to lift your torso into an upright extension. Use blocks under your hands to take it a step deeper. Begin to play with balancing here by pressing the floor away with your legs. You should feel an actual lift in your body, especially in your low back through your chest. Hips do not need to be on the floor here, in fact lift up off the floor. Use a blanket under the front hip if you feel you cannot lift up on your own. Work here until you can balance and notice how the attention has been shifted toward the front of the back hip. Today we practiced the prep fro Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. The foot and hand connection comes later. For now, we work on the foundation to make sure we are safe before going deeper.
Remember to always practice from where you are and only where you can go. Never force yourself into something you are not physically or mentally prepared for, even if it's something you have done in the past.