4.14.2011

Asana of the Week: Lolasana

  
So you want to jump back, do you?  Well then, this is your pose.  Lolasana, or Pendant Pose, is the gateway to those floaty, effortless Ashtanga jump backs that you so desperately desire.  This pose strengthens the wrists, arms, shoulders, upper back, chest, and abs, developing all the muscles that are recruited in the jump back vinyasa.  

Begin by sitting on your knees in Virasana (Hero Pose).  With the knees together, plant the hands beside your thighs, fingertips flush with the knees.  Lean forward to align your shoulders directly over your wrists then, with straight arms, lift your knees into your chest.  At first, allow the feet to remain in contact with the floor.  You might stay here, breathing and squeezing the knees in toward the chest, or if you feel strong, lift your heels toward the buttocks to balance on the hands alone.  Though the image above shows my legs uncrossed, some find it easier to practice with the ankles crossed (pictured below).
Use your abdominals to curl your body into a compact little ball.  Keep squeezing the knees in and up and hug the heels toward your sit bones.  The body is a heavy weight for the arms to bear in this position.  Remember to grip with the fingertips in order to protect your wrists.  You may find that you begin to swing or sway with your breathing as you balance, hence the name:  Pendant pose.  The body swings like a pendant between the arms.  This motion may be chaotic and uncontrolled at first.  Work toward swinging lightly back and forth in a controlled manner.  This will develop the strength and precision needed for those jump backs.  Eventually, you will be able to swing your feet forward to come to seated, or swing them back to Chaturanga.

Once you are able to practice this pose comfortably, try starting from Sukhasana (Easy Seat).  Cross the legs at the ankles, then lift up and try to swing the feet back through the arms.  This is your jump back.  All you need do from here is shoot the feet back and you've got it!

11 comments:

  1. You make this look so easy. Going to try the fingertip grip suggestion here. I have a tendency towards lazy-hands (something my teacher has pointed out, uh, more than a few times)...letting the heel of the hand take most of the weight. Another good reminder to activate the whole hand.

    Also, I've never tried this with uncrossed legs. Going to give it a try tonight and see how much harder it is. ;)

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  2. Hi Megan, I've been following your blog for quite some time now (for a LONG time on my rss reader, but more recently also through google friend connect) but this is my first time commenting. Thank you so much for this pose! I have really been wanting to have more control in my jumpbacks so I will really practice this pose.

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  3. My arms and bandhas are definitely not strong enough to do this pose.. I can kind of pull it off with blocks. Does that mean my arms need to grow 3 inches before I can do proper jump backs? :P

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  4. Arkie - One way to build more strength in the hands is to practice on fingertips instead of flat hands. It's easy on flat hands to forget about engaging the fingers, but up on the fingertips, the fingers have no choice to engage. My teacher training teachers encouraged us to intensify arm support asanas, like Plank, Pendant, and Bakasana, by using fingertips instead of palms. Very intense, and I don't recommend this to my students in open-level classes, but it's very strengthening.

    Roxan - Thanks for much for commenting! Lolasana is great for fine tuning your jump back, and it's easy to just get down on the floor and practice it for a few seconds several times a day.

    Yyogini - Doing this pose with blocks is a great way to build strength in the core. That extra lift you need for the jump backs comes from the abdomen and upper back. You probably don't need longer arms, just more rounding of the spine.

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  5. the fingers have no choice *but* to engage, that is.

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  6. Yes, you make it look so easy! I got the hang of it once, then had a baby, then got the hang of it again, and then had another baby....sigh....here I am working on it again :)

    Actually, I've found it is easier to learn right after baby because, essentially you have NO CORE. So it is easier to feel what needs to be engaged. Before my darn psoas would always get in the way, and other things were so bound up, I couldn't feel how to engage more of what I needed.

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  7. That's an interesting point, Domestic. Though I am not a mother, I think I know what you mean. Sometimes it's better to build from scratch rather than try to clean up an already existing mess.

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  8. excellet post. i will definitely be using this technique in my classes. the thing that i can't wrap my head around is your suggestions of using the fingers instead of the palms. my teachers (dena, lino, guruji) NEVER allowed this. so i'm kind of wondering about that. it seems dangerous. tons of newbies try to lift with the fingers & they get so contorted i can barely look at them. i think the main thing is to engage the crap out of mula bandha & uddiyana as well as having very strong hip flexors.

    during navasana, i teach squeezing the knees hard into the chest in between each one. seems to be helping people.

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  9. Hi Bindithug - As far as the fingertips modification, I'm not suggesting that you use this technique for jump backs. I've only ever used it as a hand/forearm strengthener, and like I said, I don't offer this to my students because it is intense, but it does strengthen the hands. It's certainly not an Ashtanga-approved method, but neither am I an Ashtanga teacher.

    The Navasana knee squeeze that you teach seems like it would be very effective. Those lift-ups are another great way to prepare for full jump backs. Strong hip flexors and rock solid bandhas are key.

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  10. Megan, if I am trying this from Virasana (with my ankles crossed) and can't get my feet up, is it my lower abs that are the issue?

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  11. SC Yoga Girl - It's hard to say without looking at your practice. You are correct that the lower abdominal muscles are crucial for achieving lift, but it's likely that a lack of coordination with the surrounding musculature is just as much at fault. It may help you to concentrate on squeezing the knees together and tucking the heels up toward the sitbones. Also, the shoulders must shift far forward over the hands in order for the feet to lift above the ground, so the fingers must be strong. Just keep working at it, try different approaches on different days. It will come.

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