After some reflection, I decided to seek out some expert advice on this matter. So I emailed Kino to ask for her input on this matter. As you might recall, in my recent post, I wrote that at her Richmond workshop, Kino told me that in Mari C, I should use my free hand to hold the thigh and in Mari D, I should use the free hand to hold either the calf or shin of the leg that is in half-lotus. In her response to my email, she explains the reason behind this instruction:
"I told you to try to grab your ankle or skin in D and your thigh in C to stabilize the pelvis and pull you deeper into the posture. By doing this you will ground the posture rather than just twist without foundation. Using the wrapper is the grabber will help give you a solid basis to ground the twist from. For beginners the first attempt to bind their hands usually ends with the clasping of the fingers. I've heard people suggest that the wrapper should not be the grabber because the hand that reaches around the knee has less blood supply and might not be as strong as the free hand/arm. However, this would only really apply to people who are just beginning to bind at the wrist. If you are freely binding at the wrist it makes sense to take a position on the bind that will allow the most depth, stability and movement in the posture. One of the biggest issues in twisting postures is being able to twist from the solid foundation of the pelvis and not twist the hips too much to compensate for lack of spinal or shoulder flexibility while bringing the energy actively up the spine. Whichever hand position better assists this movement is the one to focus on in the posture.
In pasasana the hand attached to the wrapper can hold onto the other so that eventually the arm can straighten fully and the shoulder rotate deeply down the back. This deepening rotation of the shoulder will assist the upper back opening that is needed for the deep backbends of second series."
But just why is it so important to twist from the solid foundation of the pelvis rather than just get into the twist by twisting the hips? Kino elaborates further:
"If you twist your hips (meaning compromise the level plane of the sacrum and bring the right or left side forward or backward from the other) to get into the twisting postures, then the hips end up moving instead of the spine. In a way this actually decreases the minimal twist that can happen in the lower back and the SI joints. You need healthy flexibility and stability throughout the whole body in order to do the postures with ease over time... without stabilizing the pelvis the depth of the twist is cheated in essence by merely moving the hips to one side instead of bending the spine and all the associated muscles. It is possible that twisting the hips instead of twisting through a careful extension of the spine, including the SI joints (if they are grounded with the stability in the pelvis) could create a stiffness in the lower back and pelvic area that when taken to postures than demand deep opening in the SI joints (for example, sacral nutation) might predispose you to pain or injury. [Note to reader: This last sentence is specifically addressed to me, as I have had discussions with Kino about my SI joint issues before.]"
I am relating Kino's words here, as I think it may be useful and edifying to at least some of you out there. But I also want to emphasize that a big part of her response is directed primarily at me and my practice, so feel free to take whatever applies to you, and leave the rest here :-)
I know what is on some people's minds right now. Some of you might be thinking: What about the issue of the "Mysore Directive" (or the directive from "The Source", as Dhr Bibberknie puts it)? Here's what Kino has to say:
"The only time that I've heard Guruji or Sharath correct someone was when they straightened their free arm in Marichyasana sequence, lifted their whole pelvis off the ground to enter the posture or let their fingers clasp into yoga mudra while binding."
I hope you find at least some of this useful to your personal practice.