Practice for Inner Poise

By Jennifer Rodrigue, sequence by Elise Browning Miller  |  

At first glance, Anantasana (Reclining Pose Dedicated to Vishnu) appears easy, as if you’re simply lounging around. But it takes strength, flexibility, and finely honed balance to retain softness and calm in the pose. Ananta is the nickname of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu, the Preserver, the one who sustains the universe between the cycles of creation and destruction, and who is said to be the Giver of Yoga, who is himself yoked in yoga. It’s also the name of the thousand-headed serpent that serves as Vishnu’s couch—which might explain why the pose looks so relaxing.

Elise Browning Miller, a senior certified Iyengar Yoga teacher in Palo Alto, California, suggests you cultivate a sense of repose, even as you work to integrate stability and opening in your poses. “There’s always that balance of going inward to create a sense of peacefulness, and then allowing that to expand outward but never losing your source.”

Miller’s sequence grounds the torso and legs while it opens the navel, side body, and shoulders, leading you to experience the ultimate repose in Anantasana. She encourages you to be fully present as you practice this sequence and to give yourself time to repeat a pose if you feel you’d like to refine your alignment. You’ll have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate your own strength, flexibility, and balance while you evoke the poise and creative power of Vishnu.

To BeginFind balance. Sit cross-legged and find a sense of balance. Root your sitting bones and observe your breath. Breathe into the navel region, the seat of power and creativity in the body. Then, invite your breath up through the full length of your spine to open your body to this sense of strength and receptivity.

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
From Dandasana (Staff Pose), stack your right knee on top of your left, feet outside your hips. If your hips are tight, sit up on a block. Lift your left arm, lower your right arm, bend your elbows, and clasp your hands behind you. Hold on to a strap if your hands do not reach. Take 5 breaths and repeat on the second side.

Dolphin Pose

Move to all fours, take your forearms to the floor, parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. Lift your knees, and press your hips up toward the ceiling and your chest and armpits back toward your thighs. If your elbows and hands move toward each other, use a strap above your elbows and place a block between your hands. Hold for 5 breaths, release to all fours, and come to standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose).

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Bend your right knee, hold your right big toe, and straighten your right leg. If your leg doesn’t straighten, use a strap. Lengthen through your right heel and ball of the foot for 2 breaths. Draw your right hip back. Then move your right leg out to the right and breathe into your inner right thigh for 5 breaths. Root down through your left heel, draw your inner left thigh back, and drop your right sitting bone. Bring your right leg back to center, release, and then change sides.

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

From Tadasana, step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Turn the right foot out and your left foot slightly in. Extend your right side body over your right leg and release your right hand to the floor or onto a block. Open through your torso and lift your left arm up. Externally rotate your right thigh, engage your right buttock, and open the front of your pelvis. Root down through your legs as you lift your torso back up. Pivot on your feet and take the left side.

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Come back to Utthita Trikonasana on the right side, then bend your right knee, reach your right hand forward, step into your right foot, and lift your left leg. Externally rotate your right thigh and press down through the big-toe mound. Lift your left hip point up and engage the right buttock. Keep your left foot in line with your left hip. Take 5 breaths, bend your right knee, and step back to Trikonasana. Come up to standing and take the second side.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Come onto all fours and bring your hands to one hand’s distance in front of your shoulders. Press down with your inner palms, externally rotate your upper arms, and lift your pelvis up and back. Press your shoulder blades onto your back and your chest toward your legs. Take 8 breaths. Feel your mind quieting.

Supta Padangusthasana(Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Lie on the floor with your legs extended. Bend your right knee, grab your big toe, and slowly straighten your right leg. If your leg does not straighten, feel free to use a strap. Lengthen through your heel and the ball of the foot, and place your left palm on the left thigh. Take 5 breaths, then bring your right leg out to the side. Ground your left hip and inner thigh. Take 5 breaths here, return to center, and take the second side.

Parivrtta Upavistha Konasana (Revolved Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend)

Roll onto your side, sit up, and open your legs wide apart. Lift your torso, stretch your right arm along your right leg, and hold your right foot. If you do not reach your foot, use a strap. Lengthen your left leg. Bend the right elbow toward your inner right calf, rotate your torso, and open your chest. Stretch your left arm overhead and, if possible, hold the outside of your right foot. Take 5 breaths here, release, and repeat on the left.

Anantasana (Reclining Pose Dedicated to Vishnu)

Lie on your left side. Extend your left arm in line with your left ear, stretch your left armpit toward the floor, and rest your head on your left hand. Then bend your right knee, hold your right big toe, and stretch your right arm and leg toward the ceiling. Draw your right buttock toward your front body and ground down through your left side. Place your left foot against a wall if the struggle is too intense. Take 10 breaths and enjoy. Repeat on the second side.

To Finish Rest in Center. Life on your back and take a few moments to align your body symmetrically. Breathe deeply and completely let go. Relax your entire body into the floor. Quiet your eyes, ears, tongue. Create a balance of stability and openness.