One Pose—Three Ways
The last time YogaCity NYC met Meghan Lastra in OnePose, she demonstrated anjaneyasana. Today, Lastra, who is studio manager at Bread and Yoga, breaks down parsvottansana, bringing alignment and breathing sensibilities from her background in Hathavidya. Here's how Lastra explains intense side stretch pose in three different ways:
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
Meghan Lastra: I chose parsvottanasana. This pose is a wonderfully complex pose with lots of different ways to work into it.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.
ML: In this variation of the pose, you’re just exploring the use of the leg muscles and feet while taking out the complexity of the hip rotation. Start in a lunge position with the back foot flexed and the back knee off the mat. Find parallel hips first making sure that neither hip is behind the other or dipping down to one side. Keeping your fingertips on the floor and the stomach touching the front thigh, slowly start to lift the hips up and back as you straighten the front leg. The back foot will stay like it was in the lunge so it’s easier to play with where the hips are in space and in relation to each other. They should always stay in parallel. From here start to play with the action of drawing the feet together, like squeezing the legs up and in. Once you start to play with this action, you’ll have more space to stretch your spine long and over the front leg.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
ML: The second pose utilizes blocks in order keep the spine long for those of us with tight hamstrings. We’ve also added in the full variation of the back heel down on the mat so we’re really starting to feel the hip rotation. For this pose start with the legs wide apart, pointing the right toes towards the front of your mat and letting the back foot come to a 45 degree angle. Activate through the back leg by pressing down through the outer blade of the foot and feeling a lift through the arch of the foot. Think about letting this lift
travel all the way up your leg towards your hip. You’ll start to feel a lift along the front of your thigh. From there rotate your hip inward, so it becomes parallel with the front of the mat. On the front leg, draw the outside of the hip back and find that squaring of the hips that you had in the first pose. Inhale to find length through your spine, and keeping this length, slowly start to hinge forward reaching your hands towards the blocks.
Here with the straight front leg, really start to play with pressing down through the big toe while stretching the leg long and drawing the hip back. Also integrate that squeezing the legs together -- this will help you to continue to send your pubic bone underneath you while reaching your spine long and the top of your head in front of you.
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].
ML: In the third pose we put everything together and come into the full variation with an added shoulder stretch, seeking to make this more of a devotional posture. Here the legs are the same as in pose two. Something to note while your practicing is that this will be easier to come into if you shorten your stance a little. Once the legs are in position, reach the arms behind you and clasp opposite elbows or bring your hands into reverse prayer. Then inhale to find length through the spine and slowly start to fold forward as you exhale. The legs continue to work to keep moving the pubic bone underneath you and keeping your hips square, while the hands behind the back can serve as a good reminder to keep growing the spine long.
Once you get into the posture, allow your breath to take over. Focus on finding length and space with each inhalation, and seek to release the stomach down towards the front leg with each exhalation. It’s a complicated pose, and each variation offers something for you to explore and work with. Be open to observing all of the sensations that come up (both mental and physical) and figuring out how you can release further into each variation of the pose.
You can find Meghan Lastra Mondays 12 p.m.,Wednesdays at 8 p.m., and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at Bread and Yoga in Inwood. On Saturday April 9th from 2 to 4 p.m., catch her in her transition-into-spring workshop called Uplift Your Practice.
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