The concept of practice and non-attachment is introduced in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as a tool for stilling the mind.
As with the previous concepts we’ve explored in part 1 and part 2 of this series, the play between practice and non-attachment demonstrates balance in action. Meaning: You’re not simply teaching balance as an idea, but rather asking your students to find it for themselves. Applying abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment) on and off the mat gives us an opportunity to negotiate the opposing forces of desire and detachment.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) is the perfect pose for examining Sutra 1.12 and non-attachment. It demands that we dedicate ourselves to the goal of standing on our hands while also recognizing that we cannot be defined by the outcome.
How to outline your strategy for teaching practice and non-attachment:
FOCUS (the main theme of your curriculum): Balance
CONCEPT (the specific concepts you want to teach related to your focus): Practice and Non-Attachment
POSE (the postures that embody the concept): Handstand
ACTIONS (the actions of your chosen pose and the other postures share these actions): Ground + Rebound; Compact the outer hip; Lengthen the side body; Firm the outer arms in.
These five postures can be used to build a sequence leading toward Handstand. While each posture can be used to target a specific action, they also work together to establish a clear path to Handstand. This final sequence in the series is the culmination of the work presented throughout our sample curriculum.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Variation: Block between the hands
Action: Firm the outer upper arms in
Utkatasana progresses the action of firming the outer arms by applying the work under more challenging conditions. In this pose, students must use effort to straighten and lift their arms against the force of gravity. Working with a block between the hands adds more weight, but also gives students something tangible to lift. This work prepares the arms for Handstand.
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose)
Variation: Back heel against a wall
Action: Lengthen the side body
Parsvottanasana is a great posture for exploring the length of the side body. Again, this action is challenged by gravity which, if not countered by spinal extension, pulls the torso down toward the floor. The posture demands a purposeful length from the back heel all the way out through the crown of the head, therefore also reinforcing the action of ground and rebound.
Variation: Top foot presses into a wall, or on the seat of a chair
Action: Compact the outer hip in
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana builds on the previous sequence, which featured the same exact shape in a more accessible relationship to gravity. Placing the top foot on the wall supports the balance of the pose, which gives students more bandwidth to focus on the compacting of the standing outer hip. The arms can reach up to the ceiling to encourage ground and rebound from the standing foot up through the arms.
Variation: Traction belt around standing hip and lifted foot
Action: Ground and rebound
When developing a curriculum, it’s useful to include postures in your sequence that were the focus of earlier sequences because it gives students an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned and apply it in new ways. For this variation of Virabhadrasana III, a traction belt around the standing hip and lifted foot gives students something into which they can ground the top foot and rebound out through the arms. It also organizes the legs and pelvis in preparation for kicking up into Handstand.
Variation: Strap around the upper arms (shoulder-width)
Action: All of the actions!
Adho Mukha Vrksasana is the culmination of all the actions and concepts we’ve explored in this sample curriculum on balance! You can repeat Handstand multiple times in this sequence to give your students a chance to practice specific actions, consider the concepts, and experience a sense of balance for themselves.
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