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Advice for Bhujapidasana

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—Richard Wyatt, Bridport, Vermont

John Friend’s reply:

Bhujapidasana is a wonderful balancing pose that can be really fun
to practice if you know some alignment tricks. Here are some key
alignment points for Bhujapidasana that will help you perform the
pose with ease, lightness, and power:

In Bhujapidasana, you
balance on the hands with the legs wrapped around your upper arms and
the feet crossed in front of your torso. First, you must fully
stretch your hamstrings, so that you can bend deeply forward between
your legs in a bent-legged Uttanasana
(Standing Forward Bend)
. (The closer you can get your legs to
your shoulders—which requires a good amount of hamstring
flexibility—the easier Bhujapidasana is to perform.)

To most effectively and safely stretch the hamstrings, keep your leg
muscles engaged and toned while you stretch. If necessary,
isometrically draw the feet backward in order to help you engage the
hamstrings. Some basic poses that will help you work on the
hamstrings in this way include Uttanasana, Adho Mukha
, Utthita
, Parsvottanasana, and Supta

Also, to be able to bend deeply forward in preparation for
Bhujapidasana, you must open up the hips. Most yoga students think
of hip-openers as poses that help stretch the inner thighs and
externally rotate the legs. However, another aspect of
hip-openers—particularly important for this pose—is to
internally rotate the legs, drawing the upper, inner thighs backward
and widening the thighs and pelvis.

Another clue to optimally performing Bhujapidasana is hidden in
its name. “Bhuja” means “arm” or “shoulder,” and “pida” means
“pressure.” When you are in the pose, you want to actively hug or
squeeze your legs against your arms into the midline. With your
feet crossed at the ankles, enthusiastically spread your toes,
especially your little toes. This will help draw your shins and
thighs in toward the midline, which will translate into lightness in
the pose. In order to create further lightness, draw your heels and
your tailbone toward each other.

The more you squeeze the legs into
the midline and against the arms, the lighter and easier the pose
becomes. In addition, use your breath to help you fill in your back
body, especially around the waistline or kidney region. The
more the kidney area can puff up with your breath, the more
laghima (lightness) you will create in the pose.

Finally, cultivate a playful attitude. Although at first you might
not be able to perform the pose without a great deal of effort,
every attempt makes a lasting impression in the energetics of your
mind-body. So, dedicate yourself to regular practice of this pose
with the above alignment tips, and you will soon experience a new
level of self-empowerment.

This month’s expert, John Friend, is the founder of Anusara
Yoga, which combines the celebration of the heart, the art of inner body
awareness, and the science of universal principles of alignment.