(Pose Dedicated to Visvamitra)

Before dicing the first onion in preparation for dinner service, a chef organizes the essential ingredients and cookware in the station so that the work flows with natural efficiency. In this sequence you've done something akin to the chef's protocol: You've organized the actions and the postural and cncrgetic ingredients of Visvamitrasana so that you can develop the pose with maximum efficiency, ease, and awareness. You've had your dinner; now it's time for dessert.

To begin, take a wide stride, turn your right foot toward the front ofyour mat, and turn your back foot slightly in. Bend your front knee, and press your right shoulder against your inner right knee. Take a few breaths, slowly rocking your pelvis forward and backward to soften the muscular resistance in your hips. Drop your right shoulder underneath your front knee, sneak your right arm behind your shin, and place your right hand outside your foot. Pause for a moment and feel your three points of contact with the floor: your right hand, front foot, and back foot. Charge your back leg and shift your weight slightly to the right and into your right arm. Take a slow, steady breath, and remember the calm ofViparita Karani — you're about to take flight.

To lift off, hold your front foot with your left hand. Lean onto your right hand until your front foot lifts off the ground. Extend your right leg straight, squeezing your inner thigh against your arm in order to keep it from slipping toward the ground. The pressure of the leg against the bottom arm will tend to force your bottom shoulder forward and down. To counteract this, remember the actions ofVasisthasana: Root down through the base of all your fingers, gently externally rotate your arm so the elbow crease and biceps turn toward the front ofyour mat, and draw your shoulder blade down your back. Complement this stability by working your back leg strongly, as though you were doing a standing pose. To finish the pose, shift your focus to the sidebend. Bend your top elbow toward the ceiling, and roll your chest open. Breathe into the spacious opening of your top ribs.

After several breaths in the pose, bend your front knee, lower your foot back to the floor, and pause to savor your experience. Then transition to your second side.

It is inevitable, normal, and (arguably) desirable to experience a wide array of thoughts, feelings, and sensations when practicing poses like Visvamitrasana— from the cxcitemcnt of skillful execution and expansion, to the frustration of failing to take off, to the embarrassment of taking off and immediately ending up on your can. Give yourself permission to feel your experience honestly and learn about your body and mind in the process. Remember that practicing Visvamitrasana involves not only the actions of the muscles and the organization of the bones, but also the deep awareness that comes from stepping into a complex, difficult situation and maintaining ease, composure, and a feeling of curiosity.

To finish your practice, do a few quieting, symmetrical forward bends like Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), Baddha Konasana, and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). Allowyourself to move slowly and savor the effects of this practice as you transition into Savasana (Corpse Pose). *

Jason Crandell teaches alignment-based vinyasa yoga in San Francisco and beyond. He is the creator of several recent Yoga Journal DVDs; %ga Journal's Complete Beginner's Guide; Yoga for Morning, Noon & Night,- and Yoga for Weil-Being. For more information, go to

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