Deepening the understanding of an asana


The above pose is called paschimottanasana and it’s the first pose of the middle part of Ashtanga yoga. There are four variations of this asana, with each asana one moves a bit deeper into the pose. When it’s possible to bind the hands in front of the feet, one can omit the other 3 variations.

Here are my questions in order to deepen the understanding of any asanas:

  1. What sort of asana is it? Paschimottanasana is a forward bending asana. In this case it’s easy, but sometimes there are asanas which are a combination of forward bending and balancing i.e.. This asana stretches the back of the legs. To stretch the body takes usually longer than to learn an asana that requires the correct technique like sirsasana (headstand).

  2. Are there easier variations? Paschimottanasana works mainly on the hip joint and on stretching the back of the legs. Knowing this one can come up with easier variations with the same goals.

  3. Are there more challenging variations? These days it’s easy to google the variations. The student must decide which variation he/she likes to add to the practice.

  4. Can I move the body 90 degree? Often an asana has the same form but is performed with a rotation of 90 degree. Instead of sitting, one can lie on the back with the same body position. This can make a huge difference. One can also stand and again the asana will feel totally differently.

  5. What is the counter asana? Very often it’s upward facing dog in primary series of Ashtanga yoga. Yet for paschimottanasana the next asana works as a counter pose: It’s purvottanasana. A counter pose moves the body in the other direction, but not that intensively.

  6. How to get into the asana and how to get out of the asana? In Ashtanga yoga this is called ‘vinyasa’. It’s the dynamic part. I prefer to work on the asanas than on the vinyasas. It’s surely good advice to give these two parts the same attention.

Picture 1 shows an easier variation, picture 2 shows a variation with a rotation of 180 degree, picture 3 shows a vinyasa exercise and picture 4 shows a counter pose.

No asana is a stand alone position. Around a single asanas are vinyasas and other asanas. There are counter poses and a lot of variations. Experimenting helps to make your yoga practice to your own practice.

Make your own experiences. Create your own stories. Enjoy.