Posted by: eveyoga | January 3, 2011

Moving Forward

Uttanasana, supported

At this time of a brand new year, we are disposed to thinking of moving forward into 2011, into our lives, maybe into a healthier, happier lifestyle. On Dec. 31st we leave behind the old year and wake up into a fresh Jan. 1st.

Let’s take the family of yoga postures, forward bends, as a metaphor for going forward in a peaceful, simple way.

To be honest, forward bends can stir up a range of emotions from love to hate. Long ago, I used to cry when I did a forward bend practice because my movement was relatively limited, like any beginner. At this time I was up against my ego which wanted me to do as well as the “best” person in the yoga class. I was missing the point: that the bending and yielding part of the pose was where I could cultivate awareness and humility.

Live and learn!

Practically speaking, if a yoga practitioner has back problems, then going forward can be a no-go zone, until the difficulty is resolved.

The pose pictured above, uttanasana, can be adapted so that one’s back is kept fairly straight and then the likelihood of injury is lessened. This means we can accrue all the benefits of this invaluable pose:

“Uttanasana is a particularly effective stretch for the back muscles and legs. Because you are in an inverted position with your head down, the brain is quietened, especially if this pose is done with the head supported on the seat of a chair. Stiffness or discomfort can be mitigated by bending the knees slightly.” Teach Yourself Yoga

In October last year, I attended a class conducted by a “Shadow Yoga” teacher (that is the style of Natanaga Zhander) I was very interested to hear the teacher describe his method of doing poses like uttanasana, paschimottanasana, janu sirsasana as bending forward from the lower back and creating the action of a backbend in the upper back.

Even though this technique is completely contradictory to the Iyengar approach I was schooled in, it seems to be remarkably effective. In one sense it makes sense, as forward bending from the lower torso encourages you to use your abdominal muscles and the bandhas. By using a backbendy approach in your upper torso, you keep your front chest nicely open.

If you are troubled by your back, perhaps don’t try this method on, but otherwise, experiment. Yoga is meant to be experiential. If it works, take it and run.

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