9.18.2010

Asana of the Week: Vasisthasana

This week's asana of distinction is Vasisthasana (a.k.a side plank or inclined plane posture). Vasisthasana is dedicated to the sage Vasistha, a family priest to the solar race of kings and the author of several Vedic hymns. The rivalry between Vasistha and Visvamitra, a royal sage and man of the warrior caste who by his piety and asceticism raised himself to brahman status, forms the subject of many legends (Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar). I intend to keep this rivalry going. Look for Visvamitrasana next week!

 Vasisthasana works the arms, wrists, sides, outer legs, and low back strongly and brings a glorious stretch into the hip, groin, hamstring, and inner thigh of the raised leg.  Enter vasisthasana from a plank position. Bring the feet together behind you and roll onto the outer edge of the right foot, then extend the left hand to the sky. Begin with the legs stacked. Be sure to ground the supporting hand directly beneath the shoulder to ensure stability in the shoulder joint. Work toward the full expression of vasisthasana by floating the top leg to build strength, or practicing side plank with tree legs to work on opening the hips. I recommend playing with both variations.

When you're ready to try the full pose, engage the side body as strongly as you can, then bend the top knee and reach back for the big toe. You might need to lean forward a bit in order to catch the toe with the fingers, so be prepared to compensate for this shift in weight by stabilizing the side body and strengthening the whole hand, spreading the fingers wide and gripping the earth. Once you've got your big toe firmly in hand, flex the foot and straighten the leg, shining the sole of the foot to the sky. Keep the hips and shoulders stacked and the breath steady. Gaze down to the thumb of the supporting hand until you feel stable, then try taking the gaze up to the big toe.

Below is a Vasisthasana sequence I've been playing with this week that'll strengthen the arms and open the hips:
  1. Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
  2. Parivritta parsvakonasana (Revolved side angle)
  3. Eka pada koundinyasana I (Sage Balance 1)
  4. Utthan pristhasana (Lizard pose)
  5. Eka pada koundinyasana II (Albatross)
  6. Vasisthasana (Side plank)
  7. Eka Pada Adho Muka Svanasana (One-legged Down Dog)
  8. Eka pada rajakapotasana (Half pigeon)
  9. Vinyasa
  10. Repeat 1-9 on the opposite side.

6 comments:

  1. #3 sounds like what we call "hurdler's pose" (as in a hurdle jump...omg if you write 'hurdle' enough, it looks really weird!

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  2. Shizz - Nope. Hurdler's pose, as you call it, is number 5. Number 3 is the revolved version - similar, but different.

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  3. Whatever they are, that sounds like a tough sequence!

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  4. #3 how about "revolving flying splits"

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  5. i was intrigued and had to try it. it is a challenging and very well thought of sequence that flows. the only thing i am not sure about are the transitions and sides as it seems to me that at 1 point you change legs (when you jump back from sage pose, left leg seems to naturally come first for lizard pose and albatross) what is your practice?

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