One Pose—Three Ways
Carrie Owerko is an Iyengar teacher with a background in Laban Movement Analysis. With a sense of play, Owerko constantly seeks ways to stay curious in her practice. In addition to studying yoga philosophy, she enjoys biomechanics. Here she shares Eka Pada Rajakapotansana 2.
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you choose and why do you like it?
Carrie Owerko: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 2 is the pose. I like it because it presents a wonderful balance challenge. It is both uplifting and relaxing—because of the deep release in certain muscles of the hip and lower spine—as well as providing an incredible opening in the upper thoracic region.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and the body parts engaged.
CO: In this first variation, we have deep hip flexion of the forward leg, as well as deep hip extension of the backward leg. There is some lumbar extension, but the emphasis here is on the hips and one’s ability to simultaneously stabilize and mobilize these areas of the body. Using the chair in this way helps one elongate the lower calf of the forward leg, which is necessary in the final pose. It requires an active extension of the hip and knee of the back leg, which not only helps elongate the deep hip flexors of the back leg, but also presents a balance challenge. One must engage the lateral gluteals, abdominals, and pelvic floor musculature in order to remain stable.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
CO: In the second variation, we begin to elongate the quadriceps of the back leg. Our
balance is further challenged by taking the opposite arm back to side bar of the chair.
Learning to reach with the opposite arm prevents the natural tendency to turn the pelvis
in the direction of the back leg, thus potentially shortening that side of the torso. Here one learns to release the hip flexors of the back leg while simultaneously lifting the sides of the trunk and the anterior spine. The foot or lower shin of the back leg can press into the chair to help extend the hip and spine. Rather than pulling the leg to the head, the release across the back groin allows the head to come to the foot.
YCNYC: What is the overall effect of the third pose on the body, and what does this
one add to the understanding of the pose—and mind?
CO: In this variation, both arms are lifted overhead to come to the sides of the chair. This
further elongates the sides of the torso, stretches the anterior trunk region, and provides
an even deeper opening across the frontal groin of the hip of the back leg, as well as the
anterior portions of the spine. The deep opening of the upper thoracic and shoulder
regions makes this variation both exhilarating and uplifting. The chair still provides some
support so the body and the mind can release a little further into the asana without the
balance challenge that is present in the final unsupported variation.
Owerko teaches regular classes at the Iyengar Institute of New York. She also teaches workshops and special series classes at Yoga Shanti NYC, Yogamaya, Kula Yoga Project, and Yogaworks. Go to carrieowerko.com for more info about online learning platforms for 2016.
If you would like to contribute to One Pose—Three Ways, email Ann Votaw at email@example.com with "Three Poses" in the subject line.