10.21.2010

Asana of the Week: Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

"Eka means one.  Pada means leg or foot.  Koundinya is the name of a sage"  (Light on Yoga).

It's another twisting arm balance this week with Eka Pada Koundinyasana I.  In English, it is sometimes refered to as Sage Balance, but I like to call it Crazy Legs (or maybe it should be Krazy with a 'K' for that extra punch of crazy).  This is a fun pose that gets deep into the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, such as the piriformis and transverse abdominis.  In addition, it builds strength in the wrists, arms, shoulders, and chest, and the strong twist initiated by the legs wrings out the digestive organs and vitalizes the spine.

Do not attempt this pose if you struggle with wrist pain or limited mobility in the low back.  Warm the muscles with some gentle strengtheners, such as Downward Facing Dog, plank position, and some lunges to open the hips.  Then warm the spine with some standing or seated twists.  Forward bends are also a good preparatory practice for most arm balances, as they encourage the deep flexion of the hips necessary for the placement of the legs.  Though Eka Pada Koundinyasana is traditionally entered from tripod headstand, I like to transition from Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle) or Parsva Bakasana (revolved crane pose).  The trick is getting the knee far enough up the tricep of the opposite arm before bending the elbows so that the core is fully engaged and the leg is less likely to slide down, making more work for the arms.

Arm balances, in general, are great confidence builders, and this one in particular leaves me with a feeling of lightness. As we learn to place the body just so and engage in just the right way, we find that we are stronger than we thought we knew.  We tend to discover that where strength will only take us so far, balance and finesse can take us further.

Eka Pada Koundinyasana Sequence
  1. Tadasana (Mountain pose)
  2. Utkatasana (Chair pose)
  3. Uttanasana (Standing forward fold)
  4. Parivrtta Utkatasana (Revolved chair pose) - Twist to the right, left elbow to outer right thigh.
  5. Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle pose) - Step the left foot back to a revolved lunge.
  6. Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (Sage Balance, a.k.a Crazy Legs)
  7. Vinyasa
  8. Repeat 1-6, twisting to the left.

4 comments:

  1. I love doing Eka Pada Koundinyasana II, but never tried I. Good tip, i will give it a try.

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  2. Koeppchen - For me, EPK I is the easier of the two. The legs are more easily used for leverage, and I can get more height in EPK I than EPK II. In EPK II, my face is usually pretty darn close to the floor.

    Alice - Thanks :)

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  3. Fun fun! I always learned a version of this pose where the bottom hip is also resting on the elbow - you can come into it easily from Parvritta Parsvakonasana. But it looks to me like in this pose the only point of contact is the bottom leg just above the knee, the hip is floating. Is that right? I have been trying it that way and it's kicking my asana! ;) And I agree, you don't get that sense of lightness with EPKII.

    Awesome pic!

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