Well, that is a pretty bold claim I know. If it is not the best ever it is certainly one of the best I have found that you can practice within a yoga sequence.
This is a little sequence we are practicing in my Canberra outdoor yoga classes.
It is something new that I inserted in the past few weeks and it has certainly vamped up some people's practice.
The final pose is not new itself--we have always been practicing some version of pincha mayurasana or horn stand.
What is new is the way we come into it.
I am mindful of not always coming into postures the same way.
This helps me feel things differently and also to keep me learning. I like to think it helps prevent bad habits from keeping into my practice as well.
Inserting this into my classes has helped to shake up the practice of a lot of students, in a good way!
It helps you understand a little bit more about the strength, mobility, and stability around the shoulder joint complex.
It is also another nice way to come into downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) that keeps your spine light and free and I feel it is worth practicing just the transition from balasana to down dog just for that spinal freedom.
As always, this post is intended for my students. I believe it is best to learn from a physical teacher not a virtual one through the internet. I will be teaching these little spinal freeing techniques and some foundational shoulder mobilising and stabilising techniques in my upcoming yoga retreat in Sri Lanka as well.
Watch the video then check out the step by step sequencing. Do not do anything that hurts. Move slowly. Stretch less, tense less, and see if you can breathe and think less as well. Be comfortable and feel like you are doing something but without strain.
The video shows the transition from balasana, then to downward dog. From there I bend my elbows simultaneously to come down onto my forearms. Then I straighten them simultaneously to come back to downward dog, pull my knees into my chest, and lower my butt back to my heels.
That is a nice little sequence itself and we do it naturally in our practice at a few points and you could try it, for example, within a suriya namaskar if you want to insert it into your own home practice.
If you are up to that level, you can see I start again but get to my forearms and come into the forearm balance, pincha mayurasana. That is pretty tough and I do not practice with a wall.
Below I deconstruct the sequence.
I start in balasana on the balls of my feet.
I reach my arms as far forward as they will go. I creep my fingers forward on finger tips first like a spider scurrying away. Then I put my hands down flat.
I do not try to get my chest on my thighs.
In fact, you can see I have a little space between my chest and thighs. My whole spine feels like it is lengthening. I am not trying to arch it or straighten it. Just to reach my arms away and lengthen it as much as possible.
Knees to chest
I push my hands down and forwards and then lift my knees into my chest as much as I can.
Your tummy will work. I try not to have forward movement around the shoulder joint complex.
I continue my journey to down dog by trying to push my heels down from the previous position. If you watch the video you can see it is more like my legs unravel beneath my hips.
There is no levering around the shoulders or pressing of the spine at all. It is what I call a 'secret movement'. The legs do the moving without disturbing the spine or shoulders.
Lower to forearms
Perhaps try to bend the elbows slightly first. Then try to hug the elbows together as you lower. Allow your knees to bend if needed and the heels to lift if they lift.
Again, this is trying to be a secret movement so the spine is not disturbed.
Back up again
Try to get back up to down dog by pushing down and forward through the hands. Try to get the elbows up at the same time (not one at at time).
If it is too much then bring your knees down and come back up through balasana.
Back down for a rest
You can pull your knees back into your chest on your way back down to balasana.
Back up if you want!
Head back up to down dog and then back onto forearms if you want.
From there you can walk the feet in a little. Again, a secret movement so the spine and shoulders are not disturbed. I am looking towards my navel. This helps keep tummy engaged.
Working your way up
Make sure you build your stability in the preceding poses before trying this next one. The most common mistake I see in class is people trying to bring their knee to chest while collapsing into one of their shoulders.
Move slowly if you are going to try this and sense that you are not twisting your spine or dropping into one shoulder more than the other. If you are doing this then you are not ready to bring knee to chest and you need to keep practicing the preceding poses.
Again, bringing knee to chest is a secret movement that does not disturb your spine or shoulders. Remember also that this pose, the way I practice, should be spine releasing and neck releasing.
If your neck and top of shoulders are feeling tense then you are in some other pose and I recommend you get out and go back to basics!
If all is going well you might try to tap or kick up into pincha mayurasana. It is pretty tricky. I keep saying that don't I?
I am trying to practice pincha in a true neck releasing style by looking more towards my navel when I am up rather than looking forward. I press strongly down and forwards through elbows and wrists to help generate lift. I push up through the balls of my feet. I feel light and my spine is lengthening not squashing. I sort of feel a bit like when I was a kid and my uncles used to pick my up by my feet and hang me upside down (playfully as a game!).
As always, happy and safe practicing. There should not be strain or tension. The shoulders and neck should feel great. If they don't you are in some other pose and make sure you seek advice from your teacher.
We will take a look at these movements in more detail in my classes in Canberra and Sri Lanka and workshop them at the retreat in Sri Lanka in October.