Feel the Wheel
Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
From the transition pose, exhale as you slowly stretch your arms overhead until your palms reach the floor. You may wish to rest your head on the floor and pause. Though the effort may be extreme, try to keep a sense of the circular energy by keeping the chest open and guiding the head and shoulders toward the tail. Breathing steadily (mouth closed, 1:1 ratio between inhalation and exhalation), anchor the pubis and tail to the legs and internally rotate your thighs slightly. Your efforts to refrain from pushing your thighs forward in Camel Pose will pay off now that your quads are stretched to their absolute max.
After your brief rest, exhale and push your arms straight. Walk your hands toward your feet. Rest on your head again, pause, press up to straight arms, and walk the hands in farther, continuing this process until you are holding your feet or heels or until you feel you have reached your edge. With your elbows shoulder-width apart, exhale and follow the circular movement of the backbend to bring your head to your feet and elbows to the floor.
Breathe steadily to help refine the pose. Intelligent support from the legs combined with an expanded and lifted chest is key for maintaining mental clarity and energetic steadiness in this full expression of Pigeon Pose.
To come out, you can place your hands, palms-down, next to your ears, tuck your chin, and relax to the floor. But if possible, exhale, release your grip, and pull yourself up to kneeling with a strong lift of the sternum. Either way, rest in Child's Pose.
Regardless of how far you progress in the sequence, allow time to unwind and cool down. Begin by slowing and deepening your exhalations until your breathing is relaxed and your whole body feels calm, steady, and vibrant.
Once the breath rhythm is restored, do a short series of reclining twists and hip openers such as Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose) and Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) at about 50 percent of your edge to allow the body to undo any unintended muscle tension. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) or Sirsasana (Headstand) can round out the practice before concluding, of course, with Savasana (Corpse Pose).
I hope that by practicing these poses you have gained insight about sequencing as well as the asanas themselves. Artful vinyasa is much like a walk in the woods: The first step is to get on the path. Whether you stop to work through an obstacle or to savor an experience, each pose is a conscious pause along a trail toward a hardy body and mind.
When considering which asanas to include in this sequence, I chose poses that complement and inform each other for a vinyasa that evolves into a satisfying sum of its parts. Even if the full sequence is out of reach today, recognize the step-by-step process, remembering the concept of vinyasa krama. As you persevere, you'll develop the patience, strength, and maturity to journey toward backbends that are rich and satisfying on every level. In other words, you'll know that you're on the right path.
Devoted to yoga since the early 1970s, Barbara Benagh studied and taught Iyengar Yoga until 1986, when she became drawn to the internal technology of yoga as taught by Angela Farmer and others. Benagh's teaching is grounded in practical asana technique and informed by breath and the subtle body. She has taught in the Boston area and around the world for more than 30 years. For more information about her, visit www.yogastudio.org.!--page-->