(Side Plank Pose), variation
You've cultivated relaxation in Viparita Karani, opened your side body and legs in Parivrttajanu Sirsasana, and practiced grounding your back leg while lifting your pelvis in Baddha Parsvakonasana. Yet there's still a big piece of the puzzle to practice: Visvamitrasana is an arm balance. Despite the bells and whistles of Visvamitrasana, the arm-balancing component is built from the fairly simple and accessible template ofVasisthasana.
The alignment ofVasisthasana may look simple, but the actions of the bottom shoulder arc complex. These actions become particularly important in Visvamitrasana, where tightness in the top leg and hip can cause the front leg to press against the bottom shoulder and arm, forcing the shoulder out of optimal alignment (and potentially out of joint). When you practice Vasisthasana, focus on proper arm bone placement and scapular stabilization. This will teach you the desired pattern for the final pose and will also help strengthen and integrate your torso, arms, and shoulders.
Come into Plank Pose and stack your shoulders directly over your wrists. Root down through the bases of your fingers, and rotate your elbow creases and biceps forward. This should externally rotate your arm bones. Rather than collapsing your chest toward the floor, gently lift the back of your heart and lungs. Notice how this lifting action broadcnsyour shoulder blades and activates your arms more thoroughly. Maintaining the rotation of your arms and the broadness of your shoulder blades, shift into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). As you rest in Downward Dog for four to five breaths, remember the actions you just practiced in your arms and shoulders — you'll need to make similar movements in Vasisthasana and Visvamitrasana.
To move into Vasisthasana, rock forward to Plank Pose, root the base of your fingers, and gently rotate your elbow creases and biceps forward. Broaden your upper back and press your sticky mat strongly into the floor. Come to the outer edge of your right foot, stack your left leg on top of your right leg, and place your left hand on your left hip. You've got the basic shape. Now, it's time to go into detail with your shoulders.
First, look down at your right hand, and press the base of your index finger into the floor. Continue the external rotation of your bottom arm that you initiated in Plank. Notice how this external rotation draws the head of your upper arm bone into the joint and broadens the bottom collarbone. Now support this alignment by drawing your right shoulder blade down your back. As this shoulder blade draws into place, firm it against the back of your ribs. This work of supporting your weight with your bottom arm may be challenging, but your arm and shoulder should feel stable.
Finish this variation by reaching your top arm and lifting your hips strongly toward the ceiling. In fact, lift your outer legs, hips, and ribs so completely that your whole body begins to arc into a sidebend.
Deepen this arc by extending your top arm over your ear toward the front edge ofyour mat, palm facing down. Allow your top ribs to round toward the ceiling— fanning into a sidebend—as you lift.
Take 5 to 10 breaths in the pose before lowering your top hand to the floor and returning to Downward-Facing Dog.
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