Photo credit: Tracy Forsythe
Sacred Way, Beijing Ming Tombs, China
Asana of the Month
So much of our daily life involves forward-bending movements, even more so today with the use of our mobile devices and computers! Ustrasana falls into the backbend section of postures. These are important because they
extend and stretch the spinal column, creating a concave action. As the front of the spine stretches, the chest opens, energizing the lungs and deepening the breath.
How to Practice:
Sit on your heels, toes pointing straight back, knees slightly apart and parallel.
Press your shins down and come up to a kneeling position.
Place your hands on your top buttocks, roll the shoulders back and broaden your chest.
Lift your breastbone up and begin to curl back as you press the shoulder blades into the body.
As you extend the trunk back, move the spine into the body and press your thighs forward, cutting the mid buttocks in.
Bend back as far as possible, broadening the chest. Catch the heels with both hands and if possible place the palms on the soles of the feet.
To Deepen the Pose, Geeta Iyengar (A Gem for Women) notes:
"(i) stretch the thighs up;
(ii) tuck the buttocks in;
(iii) move the sacrum forward to extend the thighs, buttocks and hips;
(iv) broaden the ribs of the chest;
(v) take the shoulder-blades in and raise the sternum;
(vi) throw the head back from the upper end of the breast-bone;
(vii) press the shins into the floor and the hands into the soles, take the spine into the body, lift it and stretch it so the entire body forms a good arch.
To come out:
Exhale, lessen the pressure of the hands on the feet; take the thighs and the buttocks slightly forward, raise the trunk and the arms and come back to kneeling. The movement for lifting the trunk starts in the thighs and the chest so that the impetus to lift has to come from there.
Effects: This posture extends and tones the whole spine. It corrects drooping shoulders and hunchback."
If you cannot reach both heels at the same time, catch them one at a time. After both heels are caught, straighten the shoulders.
Bolster: you may add a bolster across the calves to sit on in the kneeling position and touch the bolster rather than the heels in the final expression of the pose.
There are many other ways to modify this posture including the ropes, a chair, wall and bricks. Talk to one of our Iyengar Certified Teachers to help you experience your best Ustrasana!
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