9.24.2010

Asana of the Week: Visvamitrasana

As promised, this week's asana is Visvamitrasana, also known as Flying Warrior, dedicated to the sage Visvamitra. Originally a king and member of the warrior class, Visvamitra achieved the status of brahmanical sage through his piety and asceticism. Though he earned great status and respected titles, Visvamitra was not satisfied with his ascension to the brahman class until the great sage Vasistha, a priest and author of the Vedas, acknowledged him (Light on Yoga). Visvamitra continued his rigorous penance for many years until finally Vasistha recognized him as his equal (FreeIndia.org). The competitive relationship between these two sages is the subject of many legends. And so the connection between Visvamitrasana and Vasisthasana is revealed: they are different, but equally powerful. Vasisthasana is graceful, simple, and elegant. Visvamitrasana is scrappy and complex. Both will test your strength and sense of balance.

Visvamitrasana strengthens the hands, wrists, shoulder, side body, and thighs while stretching the opposite side, shoulder, hips and hamstrings. There's also a twisting element in this pose in revolving the chest open and upward while keeping the hips stable. My favorite way to transition into this pose is from Lizard pose (utthan pristhasana), but it can also be found from Gate pose or Parsvakonasana (side angle).

To enter Visvamitrasana from Lizard pose (left leg forward), brace your left shoulder against your inner left thigh and ground your left hand directly beneath the shoulder. Keep the upper arm bone hugging tightly into the shoulder socket so that your shoulderblade is flat against your back; this will protect and stabilize the shoulder as you find your balance. Straighten your right leg and roll onto the inner edge of your right foot, then press the entire sole of the foot into the ground. Finally, feeling grounded in the left hand and right foot, lift the left foot from the floor, grab the outer edge of the foot with the right hand, and straighten the left leg, revolving the body open. Gaze down for added stability, or gaze up for maximum openness.

Visvamitrasana Sequence: Vasistha and Visvamitra are at it again.
  1. Anjaneyasana (Crecent Lunge)
  2. Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3)
  3. Ardha chandrasana (Half-moon)
  4. Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana (Revolved Half-moon)
  5. Urdhva prasarita eka padasana (Standing splits)
  6. Utthan pristhasana (Lizard pose)
  7. Visvamitrasana - right side
  8. Vasisthasana - left side
  9. Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana
  10. Eka pada rajakapotasana (Half pigeon)
  11. Agnistambhasana (Firelog pose)
  12. Vinyasa
  13. Repeat on the other side.

7 comments:

  1. love the history! i've also been using parvritta janu sirsasana to find a similar opening. thanks for sharing!!

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  2. Hey Alice - Parivrtta janu sirsana is a great one for working that side stretch. I also like Compass pose as an alternative.

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  3. Nice Visvamitrasana! Would you please post a pic of Utthan pristhasana (Lizard pose)when you get the chance?

    Love!

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  4. Sure thing, Michelle. I'll make it the asana of the week this week.

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  5. Since I find your instructions so precise in helping me get into poses, could you please share some tips on getting the front foot to lift? It's a similar no-go situation in Eka Pada Koundinyansana II. Thanks!

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  6. @Lisa - Getting that foot to lift is all in the core, which you engage by squeezing the inner thigh into the shoulder as you try to lift the foot. The psoas, transverse abdominis, and obliques are working hardest in this pose, so I think devoting some time to open twists, revolved balancing postures, and targeted core work would help you develop the strength to bring that front foot up off the floor.

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