One Pose—Three Ways
Having spent a year in with Mr. B.K.S Iyengar in Poona, Dr. Loren Fishman, M.D., has since deviated from Iyengar style only when there are therapeutic advantages or "my own inability have required it." As the author of eight books, including Yoga for Osteoporosis with Ellen Saltonstall, Dr. Fishman uses yoga to help patients with rehabilitation. Here he shows Supta Padagusthasana:
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you choose and why do you like it?
Dr. Loren Fishman: I really admire Supta Padangusthasana for its subtle simplicity. Although it is a genuine and possibly extreme stretch of what are often the tightest parts of the
body, it has a diagrammatic straightforwardness and many safety features built
right into it. In relapsing and remitting MS, people are often left with tightness and
dyscontrol of muscles and joints that have, after the remission, returned to
neurological normalcy. As famine follows an retreating army, these disabilities
come after the ravages of the relapse have gone. Supta Padangusthasana can
restore function to the fullest, beginning in this way.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.
DLF: The first pose is done in a doorway, with one leg stretched out on the floor, and the
other up as high as 90 degrees on the door jamb. The floor leg prompts the pelvis to
stay in neutral, or anyway not tilted backwards; provided the knee of the leg on the door
jamb is kept straight, keeping it up there stretches the semitendinosis, semimembranosis, both heads of the biceps femoris, and the gluteus maximus, as well as front-to- back stretching of the muscles of the pelvic floor.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
DLF: The way I teach the second pose incorporates the posterior deltoid, rhomboids, inferior
trapezii, muscles of the rotator cuff and the extensors of the spine, both in the
paraspinal region and more laterally, including the quadratus lumborum and even the
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].
DLF: Taking away the belt in the third version brings the biceps, brachialis,
coracobrachialis and forearm muscles into play. The practitioner is electrified from
the lower cervical spine to the balls of the feet. The stretch receptors in the
hamstrings and other muscles of the dorsal lower body are connected to the
periventricular gray matter near the third ventricle in the brain – about as close to
the soul as any tissue in us. A genuine calm and sense of undeniable well-being
visits anyone who does this pose for more than a minute or two.
Dr. Fishman teaches through his Manhattan office and will give workshops at Kripalu in October (arthritis) and January (osteoporosis). He will also provide instruction in Manhattan and Chicago in the winter and through YogaUonline. See “sciatica.org” for details.