09 July 2014

"The Real Yoga Begins on the Floor" -- Part Two

To refresh: I recently attended a workshop detailing the Floor Series of Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class. Last time, I described the tips given for each posture from Savasana through Floor Bow. You can read about it here.

As always, your instructor is the most reliable source of information. I'm simply relating what I saw and heard to the best of my ability. I can and often do get things wrong. Double check with your instructor. Please leave a comment or drop a line to the email address above if I'm incorrect about something.

Now, on with the rest of the postures!!

Fixed-Firm: The most important point is this: If you cannot get your backside to touch the floor between your feet, go no further!! You risk injury if your butt isn't on the floor. After that, the most important point is to protect your head/neck. This means that when you exit the posture, after putting your hands to your feet and using your elbows to help you up, then and only then should bring your head up. Remember the dialogue: "... head comes up last."  Never bring your knees off the floor!!

Half-Tortoise:  The goal is to get your forehead to the floor AND keep your hips touching your heels. Most of us can do one or the other. The instructor said that she goes for forehead first because she likes the rush of blood to the brain that gives her a burst of energy. Personally, I try to keep hips to heels and work on moving my forehead closer to the floor. Important to just keep your pinky fingers touching the floor... you are attempting a stretching posture. This is one of the few postures that can be done outside the room safely (I believe wind-removing is the other).

Camel: The deepest backbend (and maybe the most disconcerting posture) we do in class. As I learned in the MasterClass , you should think of beginning the backbend by pushing your pelvis/pubic bone out as far as possible before bending back. Be safe: if you cannot reach back and grab your feet, do not try!! It can take a long time to get there, be patient! Here is what got me: you know in the dialogue the instructor says, "... I want 360 degrees for gravitation". I have always thought about being as circular as possible. I was wrong. The instructor is not looking for semicircles around the outside of the body. He/She is looking for a square: four 90-degree angles created when you are in the full expression of the posture. The angles created from hands to heels, the bend in your knees, the bend from hips to lower back, and from upper back to arms...  Why does this posture make you feel nauseous or nervous? It's your fight or flight response kicking in. When you perceive a threat coming toward you, you assume a defensive stance: knees bent, arms up, upper body bending forward to protect your heart and vital organs. In Camel, our body and mind want to override the backbend -- they want desperately to move you back to a more normal position. That is when you breathe slowly and deeply and work to let those fears pass. Again, exiting the posture is just as important as entering -- especially taking care when lifting your head back up.

Rabbit: First, make sure you have a good, solid, dry grip by using your towel or the back of your mat. Keep your stomach in throughout. Pull, pull, then pull some more. The first goal is to get your forehead to touch your knees while keeping the top of your head gently resting on the floor. From here the idea is to lift the hips up and get and try to get your arms as straight as you can. You must try to keep your chin tucked to your chest (I always pop back up here -- just too difficult for me to breathe -- I always feel as though I cannot draw any breath). Never stop pulling!

Head to Knee w/ Stretching: I have to admit that by this time I was a bit tired and dehydrated -- I had taken the regular class before this workshop. What I can tell you about this posture is that 1) it's very important, when bending either leg and tucking that foot against the extended leg, that the heel is as high up on the leg ad possible -- to your crotch if possible; and 2) that your foot is pressed hard against the femoral artery. As most of us know, this is your opportunity to practice Standing Head-to-Knee without the added task of balancing on one leg. Again, keeping your chin to your chest is important. Be honest with the sit-up -- don't cheat. When stretching, you must try to keep your spine straight, as opposed to during the first part, when you work with a curved spine.   

Spine Twist: Whichever knee is on the floor must stay there, along with your backside. When you inhale, try to lift your spine with stomach drawn in; twist during each exhale. 

Blowing-in-Firm: Honestly, by this time I was spent and I don't recall any special instructions other than this: the only muscles that move are your stomach muscles.

I hope that you were able to gain something from this post. PLEASE ASK YOUR INSTRUCTORS FOR HELP WITH POSTURES -- THEY LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN HELPING US LEARN MORE ABOUT THE YOGA -- AND OURSELVES. If you get the chance to go to a workshop, posture clinic, or Master Class, do it!! You will not regret it!!

One last thing: two of the people who attended the workshop had never taken a Bikram class!! They were friends of regular practitioners and wanted to see what it was about. How cool is that?  How much better would anyone's practice be if they had taken that chance?


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