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If you struggle to bend forward with an extended spine…
Try an open-twist version. From Dandasana, bend your left leg, and bring your left foot close to your left buttock. Reach your left arm forward on the inside of your left leg. Internally rotate your left arm and reach around your left leg. Then, swing your right hand behind your back, and catch your right wrist with your left hand. On an inhalation, elongate your trunk. On the exhalation, turn to the right. For 6 breaths, deepen the twist on each exhalation; then hold the pose for another 6 breaths. Repeat on the other side
If your hamstrings or glutes are tight…
Try sitting on 1–2 folded blankets and wrapping a belt around the foot of your extended leg. This allows for better hip mobility and a gentler stretch of your hamstrings. Sit on the edge of the blankets, and as you reach forward over your extended leg, take a looped belt around your foot. The loop should be wide enough that you can extend both arms. Press your foot into the belt, and pull back with your hands to help lift the sides of your torso. Hold for 6 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
See also Tight Hamstrings? Maybe Not
If your back is tight…
Try an open version of the pose by sitting on a block on the back of a chair seat. Place your left heel on the edge of your seat, and take your right leg out to the side. Place your left elbow against your left knee with your forearm perpendicular to the floor. Reach for the backrest of the chair with your right hand. On an inhalation, press your buttocks downward into the block, and lift the sides of your torso. On an exhalation, turn your chest toward your extended leg. Hold for 6 breaths. Switch sides.
Build a practice
If you draw a house on a piece of paper, you only have to draw five lines: three for the walls and floor and two for a pointed roof. However, if you want to build a real house, it cannot be done in five strokes. Seeing an asana in a photo is like looking at a house drawing—a simple form. Practicing asana is more akin to building a real house, stone by stone, creating room after room from the outside in. Being in a modification—or a certain stage of the pose—with attention to detail and concentrated effort allows us to be in the building process while also dwelling inside the structure. Engaging the outside (form) and the inside (vision or philosophy) in each asana is the goal.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Lucienne Vidah is an intermediate senior I Iyengar Yoga teacher and faculty member at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York. She founded Studio Spine in 1999, which is now a private space that offers Iyengar Yoga and body therapy sessions focused on aligning your fascial network.