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One Pose—Three Ways

Last time YogaCity NYC talked to Lisa Kirchner, she was in the full bloom of her publishing success with Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar. Rather than the blissful passion described in Eat, Pray, Love, Kirchner's memoir followed her to Qatar, where, newly divorced, she nursed her broken body and heart with yoga. Today, she is a teacher who describes her classes as "a combination of movement, music, and possibility." Here she demonstrates downdog, a pose that helped her ease neck tension and recover from the big "D":

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

Lisa Kirchner: As the basic building block of my flow practice, I chose adho mukha svanasana. Also because it's so easy to get wrong. My first clue that I was doing it wrong came when my teacher, Valerie Jeremijenko, referred to down dog as a "resting pose." I didn't feel restful in it. Until I learned the proper alignment. That changed everything. Being in the pose correctly opened up my mind and body to the healing aspects of the practice. I'd come to class in wrist braces, unable to lift my right arm above my shoulder. My doctor also had me in a neck brace, but I didn't wear that to class. The tension in my body had come about from lack of movement, so I knew that getting back to movement (as opposed to bracing myself) was what I needed. Yet I did wear those wrist braces for some time, and of course there are cases where damage in the shoulders and wrists is such that you should modify. But for most of us, discomfort in this pose arises because the alignment is off. When it's all lined up, the lungs hang free and you can take a deep, big beautiful breath.

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

LK: Both the arms and legs work against gravity in this pose, which activates the isometric genius of yoga, where movement in one direction is balanced by movement in the opposite direction. Beyond your delts, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, glutes and hamstrings, the spiritual anatomy of this pose corresponds to the joyful union of the masculine and feminine within oneself. An easy relationship with this pose will follow you off your mat.

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

LK: In eka pada adho mukha svanasana, one leg is lifted. At first I didn't care for what I considered to be an unnecessary flourish, but slowing down this movement enabled me to activate my core in order to silently place my foot between my hands for Warrior A. After the breath, finding my core was the next step in evolving my practice.

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].

LK: As a precursor to the liberation of inversions, ardha pincha mayurasana is a great way to test the stability of your shoulder girdle. Once you can lower both forearms simultaneously, you can begin to test taking weight onto your forearms. Not that there needs to be any rush, or even any need to do so. On its own, dolphin dog helps strengthen and stretch the shoulders and hamstrings, and may be more suitable for practitioners with wrist issues. This down dog variation is another way to connect to my core.

Lisa Kirchner has taught yoga workshops to help people get over breakups. In January, she is co-teaching a teacher training in Goa. Meanwhile, she is finishing her second memoir, The Accidental Yogi: The Strange and Ridiculous Story of an Unlikely Spiritual Seeker that will coincide with an international yoga workshop. If you want to meet Kirchner this month, sign up for "From Page to Stage" on June 27 and 28 at the New York Public Library and "Facebook Friending" and June 26 at the JCC. Check out for more.

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