Ardha baddha padmottanasana

Self-study

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How to be an autodidact?

Those who practice at home are autodidacts. There is no teacher who can give feed-back. No adjustments are given. Nevertheless learning takes place. I think it can make sense to understand the learning process. It can accelerate it.

When learning a new asana it can make sense to divide it in tiny steps. Most of the time interim steps can be exercised. To progress slowly is not so frustrating than trying to perform the end form of an asana that is not yet possible.

Sometimes it’s also necessary to vary an asana due to injuries. This was not the case in the pose in the picture (ardha baddha padmottanasana), yet I know other poses that were not possible anymore after my SI joint issues.

How to understand an asana:

  • The first step is to define the asana. In the above picture we see half lotus, a forward bend and a balancing challenge. To learn lotus pose might take time. To open the hips is not done in a few sessions. To bend forward means to lengthen the body first. The movement starts from the hips. In order to facilitate any balancing pose it makes even more sense to breathe evenly. to engage the bandhas, to gaze at a point and to keep the eyes calm. These hints can be a guide. They are instructions.

  • The vinyasa is important, too. Often several ways to get into an asana are possible. The above pose usually begins with posing the leg in half lotus. If this is not possible to look for variations starts here. I.e. one can put the foot against the leg. To do this the hips have to open much less than they have to when performing half lotus pose. This might be a first step.

  • It’s important to find out the own limits. Then one can push them. Forcing oneself into a position that is not yet possible makes not so much sense. Observe your face. Is it relaxed?

Performing easier poses that are doable or exercising interim steps is not the recommended strategy of the Ashtanga yoga community.

Due to my back injury I was no more able to perform asanas that used to be easy for me. I had to exercise variations. I had to omit asanas. That’s why I withdraw from classes. I had to….. This helped me to heal. Yesterday I practiced primary at home with no back pain at all. I could do all the surya namaskara A and B. It exhausted me, but I could do them. I got so weak, but I got stronger already. Patience is necessary. I’m more than happy that I can practice again. That this injury would last 2 years is still a shock for me. I’m so happy and thankful every time I’m on the mat. I see much light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a lesson in being patient and trusting that everything can get better again.

Summary:

Define the asana and find interim steps to get to the final pose. If the final pose is easy, one can search for asanas that are more demanding. Listen to your body.

Half lotus pose gets introduced

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We’re still talking about the standing asanas. Half lotus pose gets introduced. This alone is a challenge. Most people in the Western world are not used to sit on the floor comfortably. Not enough. It’s combined with a forward fold. This turns the asana also into a balancing pose. We face three challenges: half lotus, forward fold and balancing. In addition the hand shall hold the foot.

I thought I’d never master this pose. I did. Lotus pose was easy for me. I had difficulties to reach the foot with my hand. One day I found out that I could twist in order to reach the foot. Then I can return to the original position. Then I could bend forward. The pose was mastered. In the beginning I felt dizzy when I came out of the pose. This faded away with time.

Important is to put the hand firmly on the floor. It helps to turn it inwardly. This gives even more stability.

Later in the first Ashtanga yoga series comes an easier variation. It’s the same form but it’s performed while sitting. It’s called: Ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana.

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When performing this asana the balancing challenge goes to zero. That’s why this asana is a good preparation for the standing variation.

There are quite a lot asanas that have the same form but have another orientation. Some are exercised while standing others while sitting or lying on the back.

Easier variations for Ardha baddha padmottanasana are when putting both hands on the floor.

Knowing easier variations and more demanding ones can deepen the understanding of an asana. It allows to practice more flexible if necessary.