Sun Salutations are a vital part of any system of yoga. In this series I will break down all of the pieces and movements of Sun Salutations with some anatomical reasoning.
The inspiration for this month’s article comes from a question posed in an email. The question, from Catherine, asks specifically about keeping the feet straight in a yoga dropback. For those of you not sure what a drop back is… it’s when you stand at the front of your mat and drop into a backbend.
I’ve been hearing for years that we should flex our foot in various yoga postures where we have our knees bent at ninety degrees or more. More recently I’ve received two seperate emails regarding the application of this technique to lotus posture. Should the foot be flexed or extended in padmasana? It’s time I throw in my own two-cents on this topic. As many of you know, I’m for whatever works. If it helps when you flex your foot, then the answer is flex your foot. But why does this work? Is it necessary?
This is a play off an article I wrote for the newsletter back in May. That one was titled Your Shoulders in Downward Facing Dog. There are perhaps as many variations in what we are told to do with our shoulders in upward facing dog and it is sometimes just as confusing for students.
I think we can all agree about one thing with regard to the shoulders in downward facing dog. None of us like to have our own or see our students shoulders stuck up in our or their ears. How do we get our shoulders out of our ears? In addition what is the effect of this on our elbows, wrists, and hands? Or is it the other way around? Do our hands, wrists and elbows have an effect on our shoulders?
Some time ago I threatened to write an article about pain showing up in the joint that connects the collarbone to the breastbone. I have had a couple of more recent requests to talk about this potential problem in Supta Kurmasana. As always I try to look at the anatomy, its function, observations about the yoga posture itself and perhaps some ways that information may inform the way we work in the posture or adjust it.
We can often gather information from the name of a posture. Sometimes embrace the quality or energy of the name, like Virabadrasana (Warrior). Sometimes the name is exactly what we should be doing. Shoulderstand comes to mind. It’s not neck stand after all is it?
This month’s newsletter article comes out of a recent trip to the Midwest. I was at a new studio with new students and hosts. This piece is actually a request from one of the hosts, Evan at Tapas Yoga Shala. The question arose; Should we squeeze or not squeeze our butt in upward facing dog? As always on the first day of practice, I mostly watch and get a sense for what I want to work on with any of the students over the course of the 5 days of mysore classes.
The basic goal of all the asana practice is finding and maintaining a comfortable padmasana (lotus pose) for meditation. There are a few key anatomical components and principles to finding this comfort. The foundation of the pose is the crossing of the legs and “sit bones” comfortably on the floor. With a firm foundation we find an upward energy and lift in the spine, which eventually becomes effortless.
I hear it in so many workshops. Chaturanga hurt my shoulder! As if chaturanga is a living breathing entity that has the ability to raise up and hurt people. Actually, I hear this about many things, whether they are postures or methods. In other words as an Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher I hear that Ashtanga injures people. What can I say, its human nature to blame something or someone else. As if a posture or method actually does something to us.