Monday, October 8, 2012

Added one more leg behind the head today

In other words, I added Dwipada Sirsasana and Yoganidrasana to my practice this morning. In accordance with my incremental splitting plan, I also dropped Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana and Ubhaya Pandangusthasana from my primary; which means that my practice now consists in primary up to Supta Padangusthasana, and then second up to Yoganidrasana. Very interesting sequence, if only because it is totally new to me.

Everything generally went well with these two "new" postures (I use quotation marks, because I used to do them, then took them away from myself after my injury last year. And now I'm giving them back to myself :-)), as far as I could see. The one hiccup was with the standard vinyasa entry into Dwipada. In his book on the Intermediate series, Gregor Maehle says that the standard way to enter the posture is to jump both feet around the upper arms, just like you would do to get into Bhuja Pidasana. However, I kind of lost him after that; to me, he seems to be saying that ideally, you need to be able to put one foot behind the head after the other (left foot first, then right foot) while your legs are still on your upper arms, and to do so without letting your butt touch the ground.

Which sounds great, except I can't do it! After a couple of what must be very comical-looking tries (I wonder what the cockatiels, in their infinite wisdom, are thinking as they observe my totally futile attempts to get my legs behind my head while suspending my butt off the ground, and failing miserably), I gave up, sat my butt on the ground, and methodically put the left leg behind my head, followed by my right. I don't think I look half as poised as Sharath does in this pose, but well, it's not about how you look, right? :-)

Anyway, do any of you seasoned Dwipada-Sirsasana-ers out there know what the standard entry into the posture is? Do you have to be able to put both legs behind your head while keeping your butt off the ground?


In an attempt to get more advice and useful information about Dwipada Sirsasana, I also looked up some videos online. The first thing I found (which was also the last; I don't have the patience to sift through tons of Youtube videos) was Kino's instructional video on this formidable pose:

Besides the astounding ease with which she enters and exits the posture while talking you through it (she makes it look like putting your legs behind your head is something that you should be able to do at about the time you started walking...), there are also two very interesting points Ms. MacGregor brings up that strike me as very valuable: 

(1) She talks about touching the feet together when bringing the second (right) foot behind the head, and letting the feet do some of the work from there. This strikes me as a very intelligent way to proceed; besides helping one to get the feet lower down the back body, it also cultivates the kinesthetic intelligence of the body.

(2) At several points throughout the video, she emphasizes that the posture is just as much about building upper-body strength (especially strength in the upper-back, which is vital in supporting the weight of the feet) as it is about hip and hamstring flexibility. This is a very important (and probably also oft-overlooked) point of the asana practice: Flexibility without strength is a dangerous thing. I think Maehle talks about this in his book as well.         


  1. Hi Nobel!

    A friend of mine said she once saw a woman jump into dwi pada with both legs at once. Otherwise, I never heard of anyone else being able to do it. I always thought that the vinyasa was to jump into bhuja pidasana before going into dwi pada. But I can't remember where and who I learned that from... Perhaps trying to jump directly into the posture is worth a try. I might be trying for a long time.

    Also, I forgot to comment on the leg-behind-the-head-making
    -you hungry post. Before splitting, I found that when I did full primary until the leg-behind-the head postures, I would be particularly ravenous throughout the day, but I always figured that this was due to my practice being so long and massive. I also had another friend (me and my many friends;) who said that when she started practicing titibhasana, she had intense cravings for ice cream every day. It might have been her pelvis and thighs screaming for it.

    In any case, I hope that your splitting and leg-behind-head postures continue to be smooth, safe and enjoyable.

    Have a great day, Erica.

    1. Hey Erica,
      For the longest time (until I read Maehle's instructions in his book a couple of days ago) I also thought that the vinyasa was to jump into Bhuja before going into dwi pada. This was how I was thought at PJ Heffernan's studio in Milwaukee, and nobody else (including Kino) had ever told me that it should be done any other way.

      But then after I read Maehle's instructions, the idea of jumping into bhuja and using the same momentum from the jump to get the legs behind the head seems to make sense, from an energy/momentum point of view: After all, why bother to take the trouble to jump into Bhuja if you're going to just set your butt on the ground anyway? But even though it makes sense from a theoretical/energy point of view, my body is not capable of executing it, at least for now. Maybe I will be able to do it if I start eating only two bananas for dinner, I don't know :-)

      Intense ice-cream cravings induced by Tittibhasana? Interesting... Back when I was doing full primary and second up to pincha, I also had a pretty big appetite too, and I think it also affected the girth of my thighs. I remember being in Kino's workshop last year (in Richmond, VA) and looking down at my thighs in Padmasana as I prepared to go into Garbha Pindasana, and actually noticing cellulite there. But it didn't affect my practice one bit, so I thought, "what the heck?" And then a couple of months later, the cellulite disappeared. Interesting, don't you think?

  2. A good way of healing. Truly effective.