One Pose—Three Ways

Shawna Emerick contantly pulls from her background in dance to integrate trainings in hatha, Kripalu, Iyengar, Ashtanga, and vinyasa. A new mother, she strives to guide with a light heart, inspiring each person to dig deep into their own voice as a spiritual, creative, and authentic being. Here she breaks down the essentials of ardha matsyendrasana:

YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?

Shawna Emerick: The pose I chose is ardha matsyendrasana or half lord of the fishes pose. It has always been a favorite of mine because this twist offers such deep moments of mental, physical, and energetic focus and transformation.

YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.

SE: In this first variation, seated up on a blanket to help support the lift of your spine, the right foot drawn around towards the outer left hip, and the left foot grounded fully in front of the right shin, with a breath in, lengthen your spine, and as you exhale, draw in your navel as you twist to your left, setting your left hand behind your tail bone, and hugging your left knee with your right elbow crease. The right knee is moving towards the earth, keeping you grounded as you grow upward. The left foot, left hip, and left hand are all pressing firmly into the earth in order to support the energetic lift of the spine and the heart center. The navel pressing back towards the spine activates an inner strength for rotation of the rib cage. The left shoulder is pressing back and the right elbow hugging the left knee moves the right ribs further deeper into the twist. The top of the shoulders move down as the crown of the head presses upward, lifting the energy up and down the entire spine as you rotate. Eyes are gazing back to the left, as if looking through the furthest corner of the eyes, stimulating the third eye energy to open to insights and ability to "see" all things within and without you. Keep equal weight between the two sits bones as you focus on a lift to the heart-center and spiraling from the navel up.

YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?

SE: In the second pose, demonstrated on the opposite side, the parts of the body engaged stay the same as from the first variation. The changes from the first posture to this second variation come in the arms and legs. You will notice that we took the blanket away and the right foot has stepped outside the outer edge of the left thigh rather than staying in front of the shin. Instead of the left elbow crease hugging the right knee, a deeper rotation of the spine has created the availability for the left elbow to come up and over the right thigh. Keep the left fingers pointing upward so as to not allow the left shoulder to draw up towards the ear. Rather, activate the shoulder blades down the back as you breathe up to the top if the heart. Now there is a pushing against the thigh from that left arm. Breathe deeply around the whole circumference of the heart, gazing back. As you ground down, extend energy up.

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]?

SE: In this third variation of the pose, demonstrated on the same side as the second pose above (to try to keep the left/right cues simple), we have gone even deeper in the rotation of the rib cage and shoulders. This variation opens you up to the possibility of binding. Think of binding as enhancing the energetic (pranic) flow within the pose, rather than ceasing it. In every pose we take, such energy is always flowing, so the body has not stopped being active, rather it continues to play with the energy, therefore deepening the physical pose, as well as harnessing the mind, and transforming prana within and around us.

Binding is happening with the arms. The left hand has slid between the right thigh and calve in order to reach through to meet the right hand that has swum back and around behind the body. If the integrity of the active, lifting spine is there, the shoulders are comfortable and spinning in the pose, but the hands have not yet met in the bind, then a strap can be used to extend the length of the arms to support a connection for the binding energy. This third pose adds to the understanding of the first two poses and the pose overall in that there is a steady strength necessary for this pose. Strength in mental focus, strength in steady breath to create the easeful energy to counteract the strength it takes to sustain the physical posture.

For more information on Emmerick's unique style, visit her website at shawnashakti.com.

If you would like to appear in "One Pose—Three Ways," contact ann.m.votaw@gmail.com.

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