One Pose—Three Ways
An actress and producer, Erin Fogel is also the owner and managing director of House of Jai Yoga, located on the Upper East Side of NYC. "We are breath based, alignment based, and friendship based," she said of her studio and its community. "It's an environment that promotes individuality and no judgments." Her class, Happy Hour Conditioning, blends the techniques of vinyasa, Pilates, physical therapy, gyrotonics, and lots of laughter in order to give the body a well-rounded understanding of joint stabilization and muscle building to support the flexibility of practice often misunderstood in yoga. Here, Fogel shows us pincha mayurasana:
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
Erin Fogel: I chose my absolute favorite pose, pincha mayurasana! Also known as forearm stand or feathered peacock pose (hence the festive harem pants). I began yoga in 2005 from absolute scratch. Like, downward dog was easily the hardest thing anyone had every asked me to do. Little by little, stretch by stretch and strength by strength, miraculously one day I kicked into forearm stand. The teacher was shocked. I held it for exactly three seconds before crashing down and hysterically laughing in disbelief. I could not believe that I was capable of this pose. I was not able to get myself back up again for two years ... but the memory of that feeling kept my confidence up and allowed me to actually learn the fundamentals and benefits of this inversion. Over the years, it has become a home base pose. An asana that has so many variations and ways to play with the legs and the spine. As an alignment conditioning instructor, forearm stand is a pose I break down in each and every class.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.
EF: In an initial forearm stand, it is best for me to keep my core as strong as possible, as back bending can sometimes be a crutch for the balance. With my forearms no wider than my shoulders, palms spread and grabbing the floor, stretch into a stable dolphin pose. Hold and breathe for 5-8 breaths before walking the feet toward and opening the shoulders to their maximum potential. Utilizing strength (and not momentum), split the legs and take small hops until you feel you can keep contraction and lift yourself to squeeze both the legs over head. The flex of the feet will allow for full engagement of the lower body, even with the feet over your head. Continue to breathe and continue pushing the floor away to keep the shoulders open and away from the ears, so that your head and neck still have lots of space to hang with.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
EF: In my (humble) opinion, scorpion pose is one of the deepest back bends in the folio. From standard forearm stand, continue to squeeze and engage your legs. Doing your best to keep the knees no wider than hips distance, begin to bend your knees, engaging the hamstrings to help support the firing up of your glutes. Inch by inch and breath by breath, continue to "lunge" your heart through your shoulders, drawing your toes to the crown of your head. This can be some major throat chakra (Visuddha) opening. The most difficult thing to do is to try to maintain the core strength while continuing to deepen the back bend, potentially even making contact with your toes and your head one day.
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].
EF: When I first began approaching inversions, the thought of being able to maintain the asana for long enough to fall into a deep meditation seemed ... humanly impossible --laughable even! Meditation in itself was (and still is) quite difficult for me. Having to hold stillness was my most advanced modification of any pose. It was a wonder that in time I was able to develop a seated meditation practice. Traditional lineage will often teach mediation in a full lotus. I rather loved infusing half lotus into some of the more vinyasa flow asanas (side plank, tree). When it came to applying it to inversion, I fell in love. It was the best of both worlds, and something that could both stimulate my mind, my body, and my third eye. It takes me out of the room and into a literal "vibe" that is both an escape from the outside world and the mirror right to the heart of where I belong in it.