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Integrate all of the seemingly disparate parts that make up Visvamitrasana, and soar into this incredible pose.

Visvamitra Pose

Visvamitrasana (Pose Dedicated to Visvamitra) seems like one of those poses. You know, the ones that seem reserved for an elite group of people whose club you'll never be a member of. The complexity of the pose can look overwhelming and lead to the illusion that it is inaccessible.

One way to begin your attempt at this challenging pose is to picture a luscious apple tart with caramel sauce and a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream on top. Admittedly, this is not a common preparation for a yoga posture, but go with it for a moment. If you tasted the dessert at your favorite restaurant, it might seem next to impossible to replicate. Rut if you followed a recipe for each component and patiently developed your skills at milking the crust, then the filling, the sauce, and eventually the ice cream, you'd find that it's not too difficult. Practice constructing the elements one at a time, and before long they will flow together seamlessly.

The same goes for Visvamitrasana. When you look at it in small increments, you can see it more clearly: The back leg is in a standing pose, the a watch

A video of this Master Class sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemaq.

master class with Jason Crandall

80 YOGAJOURNAL.COM JUNE 2010

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1 Viparita Karani

(Legs-up-the-Wall Pose), variation

Since the final pose, Visvamitrasana, requires so much stamina, It's important to build up to It at a steady, sustainable pace. You can sprint when the finish line is in sight, but it's wise to begin modestly. This variation of Viparita Karani will set a quiet, peaceful tone as you stretch your inner legs in preparation for the final pose. As you settle in, gently draw your awareness to the stretch of your inner thighs. Imagine that your thighbones are heavy and releasing away from each other and toward the floor. At the same time, allow your body, mind, and nerves to soften and relax. You're creating an imprint that will serve you well in the final pose.

3 Baddha Parsvakonasana

(Bound Side Angle Pose)

Just as Viparita Karani sets the tone for this sequence and Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana begins to unravel deep layers of tension In the body, Baddha Parsvakonasana will begin to rev up the intensity. To begin, find the appropriate stride and lower your right shoulder inside your right knee. Internally rotate your right upper arm, slide your arm under your thigh, and reach both arms behind you. Draw your hands together in the bind, roll your chest up away from the floor, and broaden your collarbones. Charge your back leg and breathe smoothly and steadily. These combined actions of rotating the chest, rolling the shoulders open, and invigorating the back leg are essential for a spacious, stable Visvamitrasana.

2 Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

(Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)

In Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana, retain the quiet tone of Viparita Karani. Rather than going for the maximum stretch In your outer hips, inner legs, and side body, allow those areas to slowly awaken, lengthen, and open. After a few deep breaths, bring your attention to your side body. To increase the opening, lean back as if you were going to fall back behind your straight leg. Observe how this allows you to access a deeper layer of sensation. Support this opening by directing your breath into any resistance that is present.

Opens the chest

Stabilizes the shoulder joints

Strengthens the legs and abdomen

Increases flexibility in the inner legs, hamstrings, and side body

( contraindications )

4 Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose), variation

In Vasisthasana, you'll practice the arm-balancing and sidebending components of the final pose, but you'll get to keep both legs on the ground. First, focus on the arm balance element: In order to really soar in arm balances, you need to create stability and integrity in your shoulder joint. When you come into Vasisthasana, you'll externally rotate your arm, draw the head of your arm up into the joint, and simultaneously draw your shoulder blade down your back. Your shoulder joint should feel stable, and your arm should feel solid, like a pillar. Finish the pose by sweeping the top arm alongside your ear, lifting your hips, and fanning your top ribs so that you mimic the sidebending shape of Visvamitrasana.

Sacroiliac pain or injury Disk pain or injury Hamstring injury Shoulder injury

Parivrtta Visvamitrasana

5 Visvamitrasana (Pose Dedicated to Visvamitra)

Now that you've felt the different components that make up the final pose, you can begin putting them together. It will take time and practice, and you might never get all the way into the finished pose, but you now have the tools and understanding to work on the different parts. From Utthita Parsvakona-sana (Extended Side Angle Pose), press your right shoulder against your inner right knee. Then, drop the shoulder underneath the knee, sneak your right arm behind your shin, and place your right hand outside your foot. Then lean into your right hand and lift your front foot off the ground with your left hand. To finish the pose, bend your top elbow toward the ceiling, and roll your chest open. Breathe into the spacious opening of your top ribs.

Kundalini Voga as taught by

Vogi Bhajarr

The Voga of Awareness

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Brought to you by the members of the 3H0 International Kundalini Yoga Toachoro Aaaocatian bottom arm is in an arm balance, the torso and top arm are in a sidebend, the abdominals are awake, and the front leg is approaching a split. It's like that delicious tart with caramel and ice cream on top.

As you learn to practice this pose, remember that it is a combination of simple actions put together in a complex way, just as our complex recipe is a combination of simple ingredients put together skillfully. Instead of letting the big picture overwhelm your mind, you can break the pose down into simple bite-sized portions and work toward a mastery of each.

It would be an exaggeration to say that by practicing the essential components of Visvamitrasana, your body will then easily float into it. But with diligence you will reap some benefits that are even greater than an effortless Visvamitrasana. First, you'll practice untangling a complex, challenging scenario with poise and equanimity (a lesson you can take off the mat when you become overwhelmed by life's inevitable complexities). Second, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your skills and limitations. By practicing this sequence, you might float into Visvamitrasana with skill and grace. Or, you might get a clearer picture of where your obstacles are. You may recognize that your arms are plenty strong, but your hamstrings need some TLC. Or you may discover that your back leg needs to work more strongly in all of your standing poses in order to create greater stability.

Finally, you'll gain firsthand experience of what it's like to take seemingly disparate physical actions and integrate them. This sensation of integration —that is, the feeling that everything is coming together, whether you get into the full final pose or not—can be incredibly satisfying. With work, you'll also get a glimpse of what it's like to exceed your self-imposed limitations. Your ego will no longer feel that sense of separation that comes with the mistaken notion that there is an exclusive, members-only club that you're not invited to, in yoga or in life.

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