Sunday, 1 January 2017

Savouring Sidebends

I love sidebends.  While out and about today I found some nice spots to practice a few.

These sidebends are spinal sidebends.  My spine curves to the side.

Key to this type of side bending is that I make an effort to lengthen one side without squashing the other side.  You can sort of just droop yourself and look like you are side bending but that just makes you feel squishy and sometimes squashy.

When I teach side bending I often say imagine the arc of water coming from a firefighter's hose as it tries to go up to a high window on a tall building.  It does not mean you have to be upright but rather you get an internal feeling that you are reaching up and over rather than just leaning out to the side.  As always, lift rather than sink.

The video below shows some standing sidebends, including some balancing variations.

These sidebends should feel active.  There are a few key elements to each of them that I will mention here.

  • In general I am pushing my front of groins forwards.
  • In particular I am pushing the front groin forward and up on the side that I sidebend to
  • I press the same side armpit down to that same front groin
  • On the lengthening side I am reaching up and over
  • On the lengthening side I am pushing my armpit forward and up and over as though I am bringing my armpit towards my face/nose
  • Once I have my sidebend I turn my navel, ribs, and chest towards the lengthening side
  • Then I do a little backbend through my whole spine  

If you do not know what these things mean or feel like it is best to come to class.

In the first standing variation I start with a sidebend and balance on tip toe.  Then I deepen it by transferring the weight to that ball of foot (rather than being on tip toe).

In this posture I keep leaning more weight onto the ball of foot.

I am not leaning or sinking down into the leg with the lower arm.  Rather, I am actively pushing that armpit down.The arm remains straight and I do not dump the weight into it.  While it is on the knee I am using it to press and help me lift more.

In this posture I am side bending, then I do a twist, then I do a little backbend.  You can find your own comfortable position for your neck.

Do keep pressing front of groins forward in this posture so you do not end up with your butt hanging behind you.

In the second variation I take this to a more challenging balance with the leg raised.

I hug that knee to the chest and then go for a sidebend there.

In the third variation I straighten the bent knee and take my top hand over to the foot if possible.

I make sure to maintain sidebend, twist, and then a little backbend.

This third variation is obviously quite tricky.

Catching the foot means you need to be long in the legs and long in the side body and be able to maintain a turn.

Sometimes people try to grab the foot without regard to the rest of the posture and so they lose the twist and some of the sidebend.

This is because when you lean your body forward and turn your torso towards the ground it makes it 'easier' to get the foot.  Alas, you will have left half of the posture behind!

So, bear in mind the point of this position is to sidebend and turn. It is not to get the foot.  Do not sacrifice the posture for the foot.

In the video you can sort of see that my foot and hand come to meet one another without me losing the positions I had established beforehand.

The first two of these balance variations somewhat resemble parsvakonasana.  They are, indeed, a sort of balance version of that posture.

Parsvakonasana is a pose where you can sidebend, then twist, then do a little backbend.  It feels delicious.

Whether or not you reach the ground is irrelevant.  Most people will not be able to do that and it is ok.  If you make sure you maintain the key actions you should find that you are doing a lot of work in this posture without ever needing to reach for the ground.

I found this lovely arch to do parsvakonasana beneath.  It inspired me because the arch shape reminded me of the arch of my sidebend.

I found out that this gate was a gift to Canberra by the Hungarian government made by a Hungarian artist.  It is quite beautiful.

Happy and safe practicing.  Look forward to seeing you outdoors soon!

Much metta,

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