(1) Perspective: This is really the second time I have tried splitting since I was first given Karandavasana by my teacher in Milwaukee more than a year ago. Karandavasana invokes great awe, respect, and I will admit, even fear in me. As I mentioned in previous posts (see, for example, this post), I tweaked my right knee in Karandavasana last year; this, together with an SI joint injury, forced me to scale my practice back to primary only for a few months.
Upon further reflection, I don't think it is, strictly speaking, correct to say that I tweaked my right knee in Karandavasana. Over the past few weeks, I've had the chance to reconstruct the chain of events that happened last year, and what I think really happened is this: Due to lack of openness in the right hip, the right knee probably took more pressure than it was supposed to in Karandavasana, which led to instability in that knee. In the excitement that came with getting a new posture, I didn't notice this instability. One morning, as I was sitting in a kneeling position while doing my Buddhist prayers, I shifted in such a way that tweaked that right knee (I tend to shift my body weight in ways that are not anatomically sound when I am half-awake in the morning). So the immediate cause or trigger of the injury wasn't Karandavasana per se. But it is still fair to say that Karandavasana (or more precisely, my inattention while working on Karandavasana) created the underlying conditions for the injury.
I'm not sure if you would care about all these blow-by-blow details of how I hurt myself, but the point to take away is this: The key to working safely and productively with Karandavasana lies in opening the hips enough, so that there is less pressure on the knees. The problem with second series(at least for me) is that, unlike primary, with all those hip-opening padmasana variations, there is very little external-hip-opening build-up towards Karandavasana: One is expected to go into Padmasana "cold" immediately after Kapotasana, and the only lotus variation one gets to do is in Bharadvajasana. And then it's Karandavasana.
(2) Preparatory pose: I have come up with a rather unorthodox way of getting around this problem. I have started doing double-pigeon pose (some folks call it Firelog, but it's basically the same thing) before I begin my practice in the morning. Doing this pose, along with a couple of half-padmasana variations after that, does a lot to open my hips, so that I don't go into second from standing "cold". Which helps take pressure off the knees in Karandavasana.
[Image taken from Yoga Journal]
Well, at this point, I think a couple of readers might be laughing. Back in the day, when I was new to the blogosphere and young and reckless, I once challenged a blogger about the value of doing "warm-up" postures before the beginning of practice (I shall not name names here, but I think you know who you are, and you are welcome to call me out on this if you want to; I'm ready to eat some humble pie here :-)). My contention at that time was: Why would anybody need to do warm-up postures, given that the practice itself is already complete? Wouldn't doing warm-up postures constitute a "cop-out"? Well, here I am doing a warm-up posture! But maybe one day my hips will open up enough, to the point where I won't need to do any warm-up postures before practice. We'll see.
Here's the shape of my Karandavasana at this point: As of right now, I am able to get up into Pincha Mayurasana, get my feet into a fairly snug lotus, try to curl my lotus around my pelvis, and on a "good" attempt, land my lotus on my elbows for like a split second before I lose grip, and land on my butt. So I'm still working on trying to "land the duck." Hmm... I guess if you do not do Karandavasana, this talk of curling the lotus around the pelvis probably won't make much sense to you. Well, here's Kino's instructional video on Karandavasana, or the Mighty Duck Pose, as she calls it. From 1:35 to 1:40 and again from 3:10 to 3:17, you'll see Kino's model curling her lotus around her pelvis:
Well, suffice to say that my Karandavasana is nowhere near as graceful or effortless as Kino's model in this video. So it'll be a while (if ever) before you see any pictures or videos of me in Mighty Duck Posture: Right now, I'm still a Sitting Duck that's trying to grow into a Mighty Duck :-)