Shoulder-stand and headstand: why are we doing them and how are we doing so safely. Look at them not as balancing postures but as strength postures.
Yoga asana is often erroneously thought of as dealing only with flexibility. In fact increasing ones level of flexibility is only then functional if this increase is matched by a similar increase of your strength. Ideal for increasing strength is the practise of arm balances. Today we will look at your Mayurasana (peacock posture). Since this posture has rather complex sequential movements I left in this description the traditional vinyasa count that is featured in my text Ashtanga Yoga The Intermediate Series.
More on what posture was designed to be. A few weeks back I posted my commentary to Patanjali’s sutras II.46 and II.47, showing how far removed modern yoga has become from it’s original concept. Here now sutra II.48, which deepens the inquiry:
Here is more evidence that the current Yoga-is-gymnastics-with-a-meditative-twist fad does not really stack up to what yoga truly is. In this stanza Patanjali defines the relationship between posture and the higher limbs. Included are many explanatory quotations from other scriptural sources and authorities.
II.47 Posture is then when effort ceases and meditation on infinity occurs.
With yoga in they eyes of many modern practitioners reduced to posture (asana) a timely revisit to what Patanjali, the ancient codifier of yoga, said about the third limb. Here is the first part Patanjali’s definition, which he gives in sutra II.46.
Today unfortunately many students hurt their knees when performing postures and as the main culprit often the lotus and half-lotus postures are singled out. These postures, however, are completely safe as long as two things are observed:
They are attempted only if the student is well-prepared through the performance of other postures in which she is to become proficient first (ideally assessed by a capable teacher).
When lotus and half-lotus postures are performed scrupulous attention is paid to minor details concerning the way in which the leg is placed in and taken out of half-lotus.
I still find that the basics of forward bending are often poorly understood. Especially the importance of sacrum nutation and active release in forward bending are frequently ignored. Let’s have another look at Pashimottanasana: