Posts Tagged ‘virbadrasana’

I don’t really make a secret of how to tackle difficult asanas in yoga. One of the easiest ways to do it is attempt something harder. Then when you go back to the first thing, it’s not nearly as intimidating. You have to be careful, of course, not to pressure students too far and let them know it’s okay to dial it back or not go ‘all out’.

Today I had a request for Virbadrasana (Warrior) III! I love that because it’s challenging and we just did some work with it last week. Today we prefaced it with  a standing half-entry into Half Moon. We did a partial entry – standing on one leg, chest and hips open to the long side of the mat, and then leaning forward (block in hand) to find a balance point. After repeating it a couple of times, we came all the way in. Then we switched to Warrior III, which after Half Moon seems a lot less work.

There were big smiles and straight backs, and everyone made it into THEIR Warrior. Loved it.

P.S., that Glade commercial where they’re going the yoga? FAIL. Bad, bad, bad for your backs!


TV Notes:

NCIS: SHUT UP! They had the Numa Numa guy! I love that guy! Also, nicely done with the creepy serial killer.

The Mentalist: Love, love, love this show. Truly. Clever, engaging, and not afraid of doing the unexpected.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta: I adore Ed and Lisa. They are my favorite reality couple, evar. That said, I’ve never seen a show that better illustrates that money and class are not related. Also, What exactly has Sheree been successful at? She keeps talking about being a success but the only thing she seems to have done was get married and divorced. Weird.

In unrelated news, I discovered the Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP site via Jezebel. I’m not sure how I feel about sites that purport to tell you how to make your life better or happier by following their directions. I’m also suspicious of any site that endorses buying particular products (that includes Oprah) because it encourages people to not be happy with what they have. I’ll reserve full judgement until it’s all the way up, but I’m skeptical.

Tonight I am making a run to the bridal shop with Carly for her final dress try-on. There is more packing to be done, but I’m postponing it until after the wedding.


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Tonight’s class was awesome.

Warrior III (Virbadrasana III) is a challenging position because it involves balancing on one leg, bending so that the length of the body is parallel to the floor (hamstrings! glutes!), and extending the arms forward to lengthen the spine and open the chest. Keeping the hips parallel to the floor (as though you were going to balance a tray on the buttocks) makes it even more work. The toes, feet, and ankles have to compensate for fluctuations in your balance. Squeezing the thighs together activates the gluteus minimus and draws strength into the core – as does engaging the shoulders and hands.

With a lot of asanas, the internal voice takes over. “I’m not flexible enough. My balance isn’t good. I don’t look like s/he does. I’m not doing this right. I’m going to hurt myself. I look ridiculous.” It’s a classic fear of not fitting in or not being ‘good’ enough. It’s the biggest challenge in any exercise class but (it seems) especially in yoga because people are trying to tune into their bodies.

For that reason, I like to balance a challenging position with a *more* challenging position. I use blocks and any additional props to help facilitate the work, but in my experience it’s most effective to face the fear than to modify away from it.

In tonight’s case, We started with the normal breathing and hamstring stretching. Then we walked through sun salutations. Cat and cow stretch, flying angels, dolphin, seated spinal twists, and standing side stretches. Once everyone was sufficiently warm, I introduced Warrior III. Everyone got two blocks – one for the front of the mat and one to hold. We placed the block on the mat by doing a forward fold and lining the block up with the shoulder for the best support.

To start, we came into the position without the arms. Hinge forward, extend the back leg.

The second time, we came into it and engaged the arms by squeezing the block – either under the chest or with the arms extended forward.

The third time, we did the modified version – hands on the blocks (use the block you’re holding to balance on the floor block if necessary – and focused on extending the back leg while keeping the hips parallel to the floor.

Then we switched to Half Moon. There are any number of ways to come into the position, but we started by folding forward, placing a hand (or two) on the block and extending the back leg. Then we opened the front of the body toward the long end of the mat (as though your back is pressed against a wall). It’s balance work, core work, hip stretch, and arm work. It’s tough for a lot of people and the most common reason is fear.

It feels unnatural. It feels wobbly and sometimes unsafe. And the internal voice takes over.

This is why I emphasize props. Everyone has structural differences and structural limitations. No one’s stretch looks exactly like someone else’s. Props help you feel more comfortable trying to get where you’re going and help you do it safely.

One of my students said, “I can’t do this.” While I never want someone to feel that limited in a class, I love that she felt comfortable saying so. And then I got to help her fly.

By providing support at her hip, I kept her from feeling like she was going to topple over (for the same effect at home, do this with your hips pressed against the wall). The first time, she was tentative – not wanting to release and open up her chest. Once she realized that she had support and could feel safe, she let go. And when we switched to the other side, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation before she opened right up. It was completely awesome.

But that’s not the best part.

After Half Moon I talked about how one of the best things about yoga is that it keeps you humble. If your concentration is off, balance is more difficult. You have to recognize the limitations of your body in each asana. Yoga is process oriented rather than goal oriented – and your process changes each time you try something.

We went back to Warrior III. And everyone came up immediately, very little wobble and great extension. And they HELD it. Not indefinitely, obviously, but long enough to not just balance, not just lift, but also lengthen their bodies. I told them not to think about lifting themselves up – think about it like flying. And when we got done with both sides, everyone had HUGE smiles on their faces. What seemed really challenging five minutes ago wasn’t NEARLY as hard as they’d thought it was. They had huge confidence because they’d just faced a bigger challenge. Confidence makes all the difference.

Pushing your boundaries can be good. Trying new things makes your brains work in new ways, but it also gives you a different view of yourself when you’re done. And even though Half Moon seemed really difficult today, there’s something you can do tomorrow that will make you think differently about it. 

It’s an amazing feeling to be able to convey the ‘journey’ part of yoga in a class and see that everyone left the room lighter.

The woman I assisted came up to me after class and we had a conversation about the fear of flying. She left feeling better about how she practices and about her own abilities.

That’s what I’m here for. 


I also used the mix I posted yesterday in class and it was really well received. A pretty great blend of upbeat and mellow tunes that led to JUST enough dancing and smiling.

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I made this mix a week or so ago and have been listening to it kind of nonstop on my Zune. Fair warning – I just pulled it up on the lab computer on campus (killing time before Micro lab) so I haven’t actually heard it. I’m hoping all those songs are the originals. It’s also missing Woman! Man! by Gomez, so when I get home maybe I’ll upload it.

Related to that, it was awesome to see Adele on SNL last week. I really love her album and I would not have picked it up if it weren’t on eMusic.com

I’ve got to say that as far as websites/apps that I’ve used the most in the last year, imeem and eMusic are right up there. Imeem lets you find out if you like something before you buy it. Emusic lets you pick up loads of music for way cheap and has a metric asston of awesome indie artists. If you like Hem, eMusic is Hem heaven. ;)

Micro midterm was meh. I’m not thrilled with my performance, but I guess I’ll wait to get the final results before getting overly worked up about it.

I am still way tired – ostensibly left over from the weekend. I’ve got to pick up my costume today (alterations done) and my bra for the wedding (ditto). My major plan after that is paying bills and sorting/boxing books. I live a life of wild excitement, I’m telling you.

Last night was the Bandwagon Book Club. I always enjoy the discussion there, though I sometimes feel conspicuous with my English degree. Last night it meant an explanation of Gothic literature. It’s weird because I’m in a group of mostly retired teachers and I’m also the youngest person by at least 10 years. This month’s book was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I really enjoyed it and thought she did a great job of incorporating the Gothic style and themes, but making it a more modern and interesting story. I’d recommend it (gave it 4 out of 5 stars).

If you’re looking for something fantastic, read Infidel by Ayan Hirsi Ali or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Housseini.

TV Notes:

Heroes- WTF? I mean, really? WTF.

Sarah Connor Chronicles (Terminator) – Getting wicked awesome. Also, Brian Austin Green has NEVER been this hot. Not ever. I dig that the kid playing John is able to convey a lot of emotion with a minimum of dialogue. I also like that Sarah is starting to see things unravel. Love.

Chuck – I started watching this season after having caught a couple of episodes last season. This show is great. Funny and slapstick spy show with heart. I cracked up at several points.

Yoga notes:

If you don’t normally read The Yoga Journal, I’d recommend picking up this month’s issue. They’ve got a great article on Warrior I as described by people from various yoga disciplines (Kripalu, Anusara, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, et cetera). I love it because it highlights that everyone teaches things in slightly different ways to accomplish different things (I tend to go with the Viniyoga approach to Warrior I). It also shows that just because someone is describing one variation, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Most importantly – EVERY VERSION talks about safe knee position. I’m a stickler for knees.

My class schedule is changing slightly and I’m excited about it. Life is about to get wicked hectic, though.

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This week’s highlights (for me, at any rate):

The Closer
This show just keeps getting better. The writers do a phenomenal job of scripting the interplay between the characters and continuing to DEVELOP the characters. Nobody is three-dimensional, not even the bad guys. I love it.

“Purple camel lawnmower man.”

Burn Notice
Fiona tazering herself. I LOVE what they do with that character. It doesn’t hurt that Gabrielle Anwar is hot and I have hearted her since Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.

Flipping Out
Anything Jeff does. Anything. Seriously. When he told that lady to take back the playhouse and that her excuses wouldn’t work with him, I CRACKED UP.

Shear Genius
Charlie and Daniel continue to be my high points.

The Cleaner
I’m not sure about this show yet. I mean, I LOVE Grace Park and it’s an interesting premise but I’m not sure it’s enough to keep me watching.

Project Runway
“Holler at your boy?”

In Plain Sight
I’m kind of annoyed that Mary keeps figuring out what’s broken about her (read: smacks her in the face) but NEVER makes an attempt to CHANGE.

Mad Men
This is a Spouse show, but it’s just so damn pretty that I have to watch it. I love Peggy and Betty, and even Don (a little bit).

Generation Kill
I’m not sure if anyone else is watching this, but it is an amazing show.

This whole show. Seriously.

Today’s yoga class was FULL. Three new people. One of the best things about this class is that several of my students live on the same street. And they like my class well enough to keep bringing more neighbors with them every week. I think they made up fully half the room today. Three new folks, all told, and the room looked fantastic. The focus was Pyramid (parsva uttanasana) and Warrior III (virbadrasana III) with a side of Crescent Lunges (chandrasana). Everyone had really good form and didn’t push too hard. Plus there was laughing, and laughing is my favorite thing in class.

I used the 70s mix, which might be a little too distracting for the folks in the back row when the room is full. When everyone is near the center, the speakers are nicely balanced but with a chock-full room I may need to dial it back to Yoga Groove.

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I have to profess serious love for those folks. It’s a pretty consistent mix of regulars and new folk but every week, when they could be sleeping in or doing other things, they show up for my class. Not only that, but they show up like rockstars. Everybody got up for the 70s mix and one student even offered to sing along. Today it was a full room of entirely flat backs in Warrior II and Extended Side Angle. I was completely impressed. PLUS, 3 minutes of plank/dolphin. I don’t expect anyone to stay up for that much time – in fact, it’s why I do it – but these folks were amazing. Everyone had big smiles at the end of class.

Saturday mornings are awesome.

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There are a lot of different ways to do lunges – high, low, on the ball of the foot, heel planted, arms up, arms down, chest up, chest lowered, yadda, yadda. I’ve seen teachers handle Crescent Lunge (Chandrasana) and Warrior (Virbadrasana) I in a number of different ways as well, but I’m just going to talk about legs for the moment.

I used to think of Warrior I as a lunging pose (of sorts) with the heel planted. And then I went to a workshop with Gary Kraftsow where he made it a hip/hip flexor stretch. It’s difficult (with the heel planted) for most people to get an effective lunge in Warrior I because their muscles don’t have the length and/or their quads aren’t loose enough to release. Kraftsow showed it as a core/balance builder in addition to a hip flexor stretch, and it often works as a calf stretch as well.

The difference is in two parts:

1. The hips point forward. For most people, this means a shortened stance which means

2. The forward leg can’t bend as deeply.

I like this for several reasons. First, It’s gentle on the knees and helps students learn what the ‘safest’ knee position is (directly above or slightly behind the ankle). Second, it stretches the calves which aren’t emphasized in a lot of asanas.  Pressing back through the heel helps to stretch not just the superficial muscle (gastrocnemius) but also the deeper muscle (soleus) depending on the flexibility of the student and length of time holding the asana. Third, it’s a confidence builder. Once the students find a balanced position, they can raise their arms and focus on the upper body while still keeping the lower body active. The number of different muscle motions which can happen in any asana are sometimes hard to illustrate without seriously fatiguing your class, and this is a good one to use. Tucking the tailbone under activates the glutes in the back leg and forces a stretch into the hip flexors.

My approach to Crescent Lunge is completely different – other than the safe knee position and hips pointing forward. For Crescent, bring yourself onto the ball of the back foot and then find the balance position. Lift the chest and lengthen the spine, then lift with the back leg. Lifting with the quadriceps will straighten the leg, so press back through the back heel as well. When you find the balance point again, tuck the tailbone under slightly (activates glutes), squeeze thighs toward one another, lower the hips (if desired) and then bring up the arms. Take a couple of breaths with the arms up and upper body engaged before lifting the sternum for a gentle backbend. As the core strength and lower back strength increases, it’s easier to deepen the backbend without losing balance and stability.

Um. Yeah. So Your Mileage May Vary. I save my hip opening for Trikonasana and Warrior II (among others) because I like to get students to think about having their hips in a plane.

And, courtesy my anatomy exam this week, there may be a post on the shockingly small number of muscles in the lower back and how that relates to backbends.

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