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One Pose—Three Ways

Shawna Emerick is an Inwood yoga teacher who specializes in Thai Yoga Bodywork and Reiki. A new mom, she has found joy in old asanas like dandasana and "L"-shaped handstand. They're the same pose, actually! Here she demonstrates in the colorful studio of Mind Body Soul Yoga in Washington Heights:

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

Shawna Emerick: I chose dandasana, the staff pose because it is the base foundational posture to the seated poses in yoga. It's important to understand its alignment in order to know how to support ones self in many other poses. I like it because, for me, it offers a feeling of energy, grounding, and openness. It calls upon our willingness to truly be present, strong, and calm, with a sincere focus.

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

SE: In the first variation you see I am supported by a blanket; you could even use a larger bolster if necessary, depending on flexibility; you want to have a tall spine. Legs are extended forward and squeezing together. Feet are flexed, with engagement in the thighs. Abdomen is drawing in and up, and the chest is gently lifted, without caused an arch in the back. Shoulders are relaxed, with the hands simply connecting to the Earth, directly beside hips (you can set hands on blanket and/or bolster). Neck is relaxed, with the crown of the head energetically moving upward. Gaze is steadily focused forward. Smile!

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

SE: The same body parts are engaged in the second variation. However, as you notice, there is no longer a support under the tailbone to help the spine elongate. This variation comes as the flexibility and strength come into your pose. Also, arm lengths can vary, so I need a little bend in my elbows as to not lift my shoulders up to my ears.

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: This third variation flips things around! If this pose isn't for you YET, use the second variation with arms extended towards the sky, in order to start building strength. This pike handstand at the wall offers immense understanding of the strength needed in Dandasana. All body parts and principles from dandasana are engaged and activated, with the added sensation of the strength of the spine, shoulders, arms, and hands. The deep, yet calm, focus must also be implemented. And of course, the breath is smooth and steady.

Emerick will be teaching a Yoga and Sound retreat this July 15-17 in Rosendale with David Ellenbogen. Email her at to register or with any questions. For more information, visit her website here.

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