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Modify Uttana Shishosana if needed to find safe alignment in your body.
If you have sensitive knees …
Try placing a folded blanket under your knees for added cushion and support. Create a double fold by first folding the blanket in half, and then folding it in half two more times. You can also adjust the blanket height according to your body and level of comfort. As one of the largest weight-bearing joints in the body, the knee is incredibly susceptible to stress and injury. Fortunately, adding padding can prevent discomfort and reduce your risk of problems.
If you experience pain in your lower back …
Try using one block between your feet and another between your inner thighs. First, place the block between your feet, firming the big toes into the block without rolling the inner arches in. Now, place the second block between your inner thighs and squeeze firmly; visualize pushing the block back toward the wall behind you, creating the effort of internal rotation. This not only helps engage your adductors and keeps your hips and legs properly aligned to protect your back, it also adds greater stability and structure to the pose.
If you’d like to deepen the stretch in your chest and shoulders …
Try placing each elbow on a block. Start in Tabletop and place the blocks shoulder-width apart directly in front of your hands. Prop yourself up on the blocks on your elbows, one at a time. Bring your palms together in prayer position. Draw your palms behind your head, allowing them to rest toward the nape of your neck. If you feel any neck discomfort, add a third block (not pictured) underneath your forehead.
If you’d like to warm up your neck for Ganda Bherundasana …
Try placing your chin on the floor. This opens up the front of the throat and strengthens the cervical extensor muscles along the back of the neck. Exercise caution not to strain the neck: Gently place your chin on the floor between your upper arms, keep only light pressure on the chin (and back off if you feel any discomfort), and avoid this variation if you have neck injuries.
Take Your Time
Don’t be shy about accepting support if you need it. Practice ahimsa (nonharming) and have the wisdom and courage to say no if your body still needs more practice and preparation. This is especially important with Ganda Bherundasana, which isn’t called Formidable Face Pose for nothing. It’s a powerful and striking posture that can be intimidating to approach. It illuminates the visuddha (throat) chakra, asking us to have the courage to speak and live our authentic truth. When approaching this pose, listen to whichever needs your body is communicating and try to discern the difference between the fears in your head and the truth in your body.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Liz Arch is the creator of Primal Yoga, a fusion of vinyasa yoga with the artistry of kung fu and the grace of tai chi. She has more than 10 years experience in various yoga and martial-arts styles, including Northern-Style Kung Fu, Yang-Style Tai Chi, and Self-Healing Qi Gong. She is the West Coast Director for the Purple Dot Yoga Project, a nonprofit that raises awareness about domestic violence, and she travels the world teaching. Learn more at lizarch.com.