One Pose—Three Ways

Robin Helfritch is a Queens-based yogi whose curiosity led her to study several styles, including Karuna Yoga with Erica Settino and a two-year program at The Breathing Project. After suffering a back injury and several surgeries, she discovered breath-centered, therapeutic yoga at Abhyasa Yoga Center. "I teach therapeutically-oriented, breath-centered yoga in the tradition of T.K.V. Desikachar and T. Krishnamacharya, and as taught to me by my teachers, J. Brown and Leslie Kaminoff," she said. Here, she shows us extended side angle using a chair:

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

Robin Helfritch: I chose utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose) using a chair in three different ways. I like this pose because it is interesting to me. There is a lot of action going on in my body to hold it on that diagonal, and maintaining slow, steady breath and finding balance between sthira and sukha (steadiness and ease) in this pose can be challenging. I love the lines and angles the body makes in this shape, the feeling of lengthening and lifting from foot all the way up to the fingers, and focusing my breath to the whole open side of my body in both the front and back of the lungs. It is also a very adaptable pose for those with different ranges of mobility. On a lighter note, I also chose this pose because it makes me want to laugh every time I practice it! I think about my teacher, J., jokingly calling it the “armpit sniffing pose” and I smile. He always encourages finding some lightheartedness in our yoga practice, and that is something I definitely practice myself and try to convey to my students, as well.

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

RH: The first pose is seated in the chair for those with perhaps limited mobility in the legs. We're keeping the legs forward and bent at the knees, about hip's width distance apart. Feet are evenly placed and hips are facing forward. The bottom arm is bent with the palm facing up, with forearm resting on the corresponding thigh. The lower shoulder is away from the ear. The upper arm is coming overhead with palm down. In this version, with the lower body stabilized, the pose offers more emphasis on a lateral flexion. Serratus anterior and internal obliques are engaged, as well as the external obliques on the opposite side, to hold the arm and torso in space against gravity. Breath engagement provides further support.