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One Pose—Three Ways

YogaCity NYC last saw Nikki Vilella at our Deeper Learning Series where she discussed the art of adjustment, a near and dear topic. Passionate about sequencing and anatomy, she said, “The more bodies you look at, the more bodies you touch, you can start to understand and feel them and see them better with your hands.” Vilella is owner of Kula Yoga Project in Williamsburg where she teaches Kula Flow, a creative vinyasa style that mashes up the flow of Ashtanga with the alignment details of an Iyengar practice. Here, she shows us crow.

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

Nikki Vilella: I chose crow pose/bakasana because it is engaging, exhilarating for students who are new to being on their hands, and it requires by nature that you draw deep into your center and seek your midline.

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

NV: In the first pose, the legs are straight as they would be in uttanasana (with a block between the inner upper thighs), but the upper body is in many ways prepping for what it will be required to do in bakasana. In this pose you are folding at the hip creases and working your legs as you would in uttansana: lift the quads, move the thigh bones back into the hamstrings, use the adductors to hug the thighs around the block and hug the outer hips in. As the spine elongates out of the compacting of the pelvis, spread the back and allow the shoulder blades to move away from the spine. Slide the palms as far back behind the line of the heels as you can. Straighten through the elbows and seek the floor with the heels of the palms. This hand placement will place your shoulders well in front of your wrists and open the palms and wrists into full extension.

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

NV: In the second pose, you are beginning to work the feet while perched on three blocks. As the calves engage, the heels will lift, and the toes receive a good stretch. This is important as they are the tail feathers of your bird pose! Spread your palms well. As you begin to tip forward and transfer weight from the feet into the hands, strongly push your palms down. As you round the spine, draw your deepest abdominals in and up and protract the scapula. This will require your rhomboids to lengthen and your serratus to engage. Use your adductors (as you did around the block) to fiercely hug the inner knees around the outer armpits. Engage the triceps to help straighten the arms as much as possible.

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]?

NV: The third pose is where you actually take flight, like a bird. Now that you are fully on your hands, the additional balance required encourages you to engage your midline physically and is a good opportunity to inquire who and what centers you emotionally and mentally. The thought of being out of one's habitual state (on the feet) and in to a new way of standing can at first invoke fear or be quite unsettling, but it ultimately builds confidence and can be rather exhilarating.

To catch Vilella in a class or workshop at any of two Kula locations, visit the website here.


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