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If you feel knee pain in your back leg, or cannot keep your back heel down…
Try supporting your back heel with a sandbag, rolled-up blanket, small bolster, or block. You can start with a high prop, then gradually reduce the height as your calf muscles begin to lengthen. Let your foot turn out slightly as you press the center of your heel back and down into the prop.
See also Feel Whole in Warrior I
If you have pain in your sacrum, lower back, or front knee…
Try elevating your front foot using one or two blocks at the wall. Keeping the ball and heel of the foot on the block, take your toes up the wall. You can also place a second block between your knee and the wall. Press into your back heel, and keep your body weight over your back leg as you move your pelvis toward the wall and lift through your arms.
See also Get Into Your Groins
If your legs are shaky or cramping, or if you feel wobbly …
Try using the crossbar of a turned-over folding chair to support your pelvis. (If you need additional height to keep your front thigh parallel to the floor, drape blankets over the crossbar.) Press your hands against the chair legs. Using a chair allows your body, especially your hips and groins, to relax and open without having to support your full weight. It provides a means to stay longer in the pose, to get a better sense of alignment, and to experience prayatna shaitilya (effortless effort), which Patanjali writes about in the Yoga Sutra.
Tip: The Power (and Poetry) of Process
Poses can be like prayers or poems—they represent a process. In order to understand a poem, we have to first slow down and be present to the words. Sometimes a simple poetic line cuts through our defenses and pierces our heart. In the same way, the process of creating a pose can pierce through our habitual postural patterning and surprise us with an experience of freedom or joy. So in each pose, let the sense of direction (process) be more important than the final form. Virabhadrasana I is a powerful pose that takes the body through a process of continuous rooting and rising, a process that’s an expression of what it means to live wholeheartedly in the space between earth and sky.
About Our Pro
Our Pro Teacher and model Carrie Owerko is a New York–based Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, Laban Movement Analyst, and playful-practice enthusiast. She travels the world sharing her love of inquiry and the practice of Iyengar Yoga.