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Postures: Alignments & Bandhas


Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose Variation
(Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)

revolved head to knee pose variation

So often in yoga practice, you'll feel a craving for deep sensation, like that of a cat luxuriating in its morning stretch. Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose) is one of those asanas that can inspire this desire, and if you practice with a focus on stretching, the pose can definitely provide a great deal of sensation. It's a beautiful and intense seated side bend and twist. However, Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana has much more to offer than just a big stretch.

When you first start practicing this challenging pose, most of the extension in the body, and therefore the stretch, is experienced along the side of the torso closest to the ceiling. The side closest to the floor tends to contract. With targeted action and extension, however, you can lengthen the side of the torso that is closer to the floor, bringing more evenness to the two sides of the body. When you also learn to bring firmness to the hips and encourage an opening in the inner thighs and groins, you can use the hips to generate power behind the twist, moving the rotation of the body closer to the spine and lower back. Together, these actions bring stability to the pose so that you can extend and turn deeper. Otherwise, you'd most likely use your arms to generate the power of the twist, and the rotation would be limited to the upper chest and side ribs.

What's wonderful is that the stabilizing effect goes beyond the physical. Moving your attention from the desire for a superficial stretch to the inner action and alignment of this pose helps to stabilize your mind, giving you a sense of calm. When your practice is directed only toward stretching, your senses lead you on an outward journey, which has an agitating effect on the mind. But when you turn your awareness to establishing evenness in your torso and compactness in your hips, you can begin to rein in your senses, and your mind naturally settles as your awareness moves inward. The result will leave you free to expand into the exhilarating twist of Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana with a more satisfying feeling of quiet focus and calm.


Chaturanga Dandasana
(Half Plank Pose)

half plank pose
Chaturanga and other poses that demand such attention to the balance between effort and surrender can teach you dharana—concentration or focus. In such difficult asanas, you can be like the eye of a hurricane, with sensations, emotions, and even discomfort whirling around your center while you remain quiet and expansive within.

half plank pose

Chanturanga Dandasana is the yogi push-up, and if you do it consistently and maintain good form, it will give you endless endurance.

Balancing Postures


balancing poses



For humans, nodding off while balancing on one leg is out of the question. Even relatively simple balances like Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) demand our full, wakeful attention in a way that other standing poses do not. There's no faking it: The instant we lose focus, we fall over. There is an unavoidable immediacy to these balancing asanas. Standing on one foot, we naturally drop extraneous thoughts to focus on the task at hand. That's why these poses can instill a deep sense of calm even though they require intense, unwavering alertness.
When we balance, we align our body's center of gravity with the earth's gravitational field. Quite literally, we place ourselves in physical equilibrium with a fundamental force of nature. But we can't achieve this harmony by remaining absolutely still. Instead, we must refresh our balance moment after moment. The sustained effort to center and recenter, when successful, brings not only our flesh and bones into balance but also our nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions, and very consciousness. Hence, we feel calm. Equilibrium brings equanimity.

Alignment: The Physics of Balance


uma balancing

The three essential elements of balance are alignment, strength, and attention. Alignment of the body with gravity is crucial; it makes balance physically possible. Strength gives us the power to create, hold, and adjust alignment. And attention continually monitors alignment so we know how to correct it from one moment to the next.
In many ways, balancing the body on one leg is much like balancing a seesaw. The same laws of physics apply: If you align the center of gravity over the base of support, you balance. If you don't, you don't. It's as simple as that. Of course, since your body is quite a bit more complicated than a seesaw, balance is often not so simple to achieve.

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