A slightly more technical article tonight, because as we like to say in French “C’est l’occasion qui fait le larron”; i.e. my friend took some pictures this morning and I thought it was the occasion to make a blog post.
Comparatively to the number of hours I spend doing yoga, there are very few pictures of me in asana. I’m not on Instagram, and I don’t do selfies, so my yoga pictures are either from people who think what I do is cool or to check my alignment. The winner in the first category is Sirsasana (headstand); somehow friends and family like taking pictures when I’m standing on my head. The winner of the second category, with a large advance, is Chaturanga Dandasana (a.k.a. the yoga pushup).
Out of the Introductory I&II syllabus, Chaturanga is the one pose I truly struggle with. We’re supposed to hold it for 30 seconds, which to me appear to be 30 years. There are other poses that I find hard, but at least I can get into the shape of the asana. With Chaturanga, I lack both the strength and the alignment that would enable me to work on either, so practicing it feels pretty helpless.
Still, it seems to be getting better since the beginning of the year (i.e. teacher training year so September) when
I realized I truly my teacher gently scolded me and told me I really needed to be working on it specifically.
Let’s look at Guruji, B.K.S. Iyengar:
The instructions given in the preliminary course are:
- lie face down on the floor
- bend the elbows and place the palms by your side in line with the floating ribs
- have the feet one foot apart and anchor the toes so they point towards the head
- exhale and raise the entire body a few inches above the floor
- keep the chest hips, thighs and knees lifted so the whole body rests only on the hands and toes
- keep the face and chest facing the floor
- exhale, lower the trunk down to the floor
NB: this asana is classified with the backbends because it tones the spinal muscles (it is actually a backbend prep.).
The main learning point is to keep the knees and thighs firm above the floor without sticking the tailbone up to the ceiling, chest up so the whole body is parallel to the floor.
I’ve been working on it with different variations, at the wall, using a block under the pelvis or under the chest (the latest variation I learned this morning!), using a bolster under the trunk (which I don’t like because it just feels like I’m not doing anything).
Let’s look at some of my progress pics with variations (thanks Hiske and Tally for taking most pictures):
So what’s happening here? Well many things, such as I’m not using my glutes, which is a general issue with me since I am never using them. I’m not bending my elbows enough so I’m more in a bhujangasana form; truthfully this comes from the fact that I used to feel like my breasts had to leave the floor quite a bit when in reality, in the proper alignment they almost touch the floor. My neck is being heavy, shoulder blades not in my back, elbows going out, etc, etc. I could go on, but you got the message: this is really bad form.
A month of daily practice later, this was the result end of October (block under pelvis variation):
Alright, now this morning, so approximately 7 months after the first picture (and admittedly a daily practice which recently did not include many chaturangas…).
The main thing is still to bring my tailbone down… and a bit more abs would help. As usual, my flexibility is an issue and I spend a lot of time finding “the middle”. Maybe it’s part of a bigger, metaphorical lesson (but seriously, I often have no idea where the middle is so that my hips are in line with the rest of my body, even in Tadasana).
I’m gonna try and keep the body imprint… And work on holding the shape longer than 5 seconds! Practice and all is coming as Sri Pattabhi Jois said 😉