Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th Asana Tip: Bring your head towards your butt in Supta Vajrasana

Happy July 4th! I hope you are enjoying a restful day off from your daily labors on this day commemorating freedom and independence. I'm still in Minneapolis. I just finished morning Mysore at the Yoga House. After Mysore, I succeeded in convincing my fiancee to go to the vinyasa class after that (it's called "Yoga Extravaganza"). Which gives me a little time to sit down at the coffeeshop next door, have an espresso, and write this post :-) Oh, speaking of coffee, if you haven't already cast your vote on the coffee poll in the top right-hand corner of this blog, please take a moment to do so :-)

Mysore was good both yesterday (Sunday) and today (Monday). Actually, it felt quite a bit easier and lighter today than yesterday. On Saturday night, we came into Minneapolis late, and had this big late-night snack at a restaurant, and I had a glass of white wine too. And boy, did I pay for it at yesterday morning's Mysore practice. Full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana was laborious, and I was virtually drowning in an ocean of sweat and bodily fluids (I was feeling a little under the weather too, and had to pause to blow my nose after Supta Kurmasana and before going into Kapotasana); almost died. By the time I got into savasana, I was quite literally dead to the world. So it's true, what they say: Do not eat a heavy meal late at night... Well, you can, but your body will have to work extra hard to get all of it out of the system during practice the next morning, and it's not very pleasant. But it's always a struggle to maintain diet discipline when travelling. There's just so much to see and experience, and the temptation to indulge in recreational eating is ever present.

But this morning's practice was so much better. I learnt my lesson, and ate a small meal earlier yesterday evening. As a result, the practice felt so much lighter and more effortless. Ellie was teaching this morning, and I got a few good adjustments and tips from her. I got an assist from her in Supta Vajrasana, which was especially nice; because I practice mostly by myself, I seldom do Supta Vajrasana. For those of you who are not familiar with second series postures, in Supta Vajrasana, you get into padmasana, and then bind your hands (just like in Yogamudra in the finishing lotuses). And then, still holding on to your hands with your feet still in lotus, you arch back into a backbend without letting your knees come off the ground. Bring the crown of your head to the ground, hold there for five breaths, and then inhale to come back up to bound lotus.

Most mortals (including yours truly) are not able to go down into the backbend and come back up unassisted, without the knees flying off the ground and looking very silly. In fact, one of my teachers told me that there may only be five or six people in the entire world who can do this pose unassisted. Since I practice mostly by myself and get no assistance most of the time, I normally just go into bound lotus and hold there for about 10 to 15 breaths, and try to keep my chest open. Which makes getting an assist in this posture a very nice thing. Ellie suggested that as I arch back into the backbend from the bound lotus, I should visualize bringing my head to my butt. I found this visualization very helpful for getting me to open my chest and draw my sternum up more as I arch back (I have a tendency to lead with my head and just kind of plop back into the backbend in this posture). Thanks Ellie!

 A fellow mortal getting an assist in Supta Vajrasana (I believe the assister in the picture is Govinda Kai).
[Image taken from here

Alright, I think I will sign off now, and try to go enjoy the rest of my weekend here in the City of Lakes. Again, Happy July 4th! 


  1. Yes the assistant looks like Govinda... I am keeping an eye on your polls there, cannot believe how many learned thorugh "led classes", a huge eye opener! And by the way I did not know you had a fiancee, congratulations! can;t believe I missed that. I hear you about maintaining a good food habit when traveling, it can get really disruptive... good to hear you are having nice practices although I cannot quite relate to the poses... just visualization for the future...

  2. Happy July 4th, Claudia!

    "And by the way I did not know you had a fiancee, congratulations!"

    Thanks. We just got engaged a couple of months ago. If we get to meet one day, you will get to meet her :-)

    I'm actually not that surprised that most people (at least in this country) first learnt Ashtanga through led classes. Ashtanga has always had a reputation for being physically "hard-core" (for better or for worse), and people who do Mysore-style seem to be regarded as the "hardest core" Ashtangis. At least, this is the impression I have gotten from speaking with people (and from eavesdropping on conversations here and there).

    Another possible reason why more people did not first learn Ashtanga through mysore classes might be because mysore classes are so different from the conventional yoga class, that it strikes many people as weird ("What? You mean you go to a class where the teacher just sits around and watches you as you do your own thing? What's the point?")

    I believe you are quite close to Supta Vajrasana in your practice, if you are at Laghu Vajrasana; it's only two poses away :-)

  3. I also practice a lot on my own and I try to find something to put my legs under in Supta V. Like a heavy sofa or a desk or something like that. Than I can do the backbend. It's not as good as a real nice assist but well....what to do? :-) I really like your posts by the way!

  4. Thanks, Helena :-) Yes, I have also heard the suggestion about using a heavy sofa or desk to put the legs under; but I haven't gotten around to getting one and putting it in my practice room :-)