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 Osteoporosiswith Ellen Saltonstall, Dr. Fishman uses yoga to help patients with rehabilitation. Last time, he appeared in One Pose, we saw him in supta padagusthasana. Today, find him in Warrior II:
YogaCityNYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
Dr. Loren Fishman: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II). This pose has traces of the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex seen in infants during the first week or so of life. The infants look to one side and stretch that arm out horizontally, and the other arm out too, though its elbow is usually bent. It’s the same position we see in men throwing a spear or a baseball, women combing their hair and holding a mirror, and in classical dance. It requires a good deal of strength in the forward leg’s quadriceps, so the beginning version sits the practitioner on a chair, working hard to have the inside part of the straight leg’s little toe on the floor. Then, as if pulled by a magnet, the torso inclines back toward the straight leg, palms extended and mildly convex. The stretch of the arms should be extreme, but equal, from a vertical torso, like the pans of a balance.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
DLF: Teachers can avoid the very difficult eccentric contraction of the quadriceps by having
students gently but forcibly rise from the chair, just a little. The other difficulty is
externally rotating the straight leg to share the weight on that foot and the other across
the balls of the feet, the heels, and the toes. Raising the forward foot on a block prompts
more vertical orientation of the torso. Mr. Iyengar once compared the convex backs of
the hands to the pans of a balance. In that case the central beam, the torso, must be
vertical. Combined with symmetrical extreme stretch of the arms from the shoulders,
this is a very satisfying pose.
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: Some people might perceive a contradiction in that yoga is peaceful, and this is a pose of a warrior. But the yogi need no more be bellicose than he or she need be a fish, or a dog, or a plow or a bridge, for that matter. However, when one holds this arduous pose for any length of time, remaining solid and stable through the effort, it’s almost inevitable that the feelings of physical assertion, of extreme endeavor, come through, and resonate with warriors, mountain climbers, and just about everyone in a challenging performing art. It benefits posture, bearing and presence, and probably is good for bone mineral density and balance as well, though studies haven’t been done to show this so far as I know.
Dr. Fishman teaches through his Manhattan office and will give Yoga for Scoliosis and Arthritis workshops at Kripalu October 21-23 and January J9-21 Yoga for Osteoporosis. He will also provide instruction in Manhattan and Chicago in the winter and through YogaUonline. See “sciatica.org” for details.