One Pose—Three Ways
Joey Sbarro has been an avid practitioner of Vinyasa yoga since 2008. "He's a brilliant sequencologist, known for his assists and lighthearted nature," raves Erin Fogel, owner of House of Jai, one of the places you can catch his classes. Some of his mentors include Daniele Jarman, Dana Slamp and Mila Borrero. Here he shows us padmasana in the downstairs studio of House of Jai:
YogaCity NYC: What pose did you chose and why do you like it?
The asana I chose is padmasana, or lotus pose. I feel like lotus is one of the quintessential yoga postures, one of the poses where even if you aren't familiar with a yoga practice, you're most likely familiar with this one. I think the journey towards this pose is a nice parallel to the broader journey of a yoga practice. It is a very physically and mentally challenging asana and takes (for the majority of us) many years of practice, and refining, to begin to approach, but ultimately lays the groundwork for a strong meditative practice. If you can keep your cool in Lotus, you can probably keep it in most other challenging situations as well.
YCNYC: Describe the anatomy of the first pose and body parts engaged.
The best (and in my vernacular that is synonymous with safest) way to start working towards this pose is from a strong sense of grounding. After making sure your hips are already pretty warmed up, sit tall with your legs in front of you. Staying rooted through your seat, lift one leg towards your chest, shin parallel with your collarbones. Keeping your spine straight and tall, lift your shin as high as your body lets you, and the lotus starts from an external rotation from your hip. making sure there's no (or minimal) movement in your knee and ankle, start to wrap the inner flesh of your thigh out, and lower your shin down, letting the top of your foot land in the crease of your hip. The second leg won't lift as high with the first leg bound, so it can be trickier to find the full version of the Lotus, but as long as you make sure the movement comes from the hip, and keep your feet actively engaged, it's the same process for the second leg. To make sure you're safe in the pose, keep your knees and thighs grounding, and don't let your feet sickle.
YCNYC: What body parts are engaged in the second pose?
The second variation I chose is badha padmasana, or bound lotus. It is a more deeply bound, forward folding version of the original pose. Starting from a strong, open lotus, wrap the arm on the same side of your body as the first leg you bound behind your back. Wrap your fingers around your big toe, and lock it in place by pressing your toes back into your finger. Then, turning your chest back to center, fold forward and wrap your other arm over the first behind your back, looking to grab hold of your other foot. folding over your legs let your head hang. This version is nice because with your hands holding your feet in place, you can let your hips relax a bit without losing the pose, and then your hands can pull you deeper into the shape. I always find this pose to be very grounding.
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].
The third variation here is adho mukha padmasana, or downward facing lotus. This is essentially the opposite of the last variation in that it is a very open version of a lotus pose. From your lotus seat, gently ease forward onto hands and knees, and walk your hands forward until you can lower onto your belly with lotus legs, and prop yourself up on your forearms. Keeping your hips and thighs pressing into the mat, pull your chest forward through your upper arms for a nice upper back, inner hip combo stretch. For me, this was a pose I never even saw until fairly recently in my practice, and for me what it brings to the table is manifold. It demonstrates (at least for me) that no matter how much you know about a practice, there will always be countless new ways to move your body, new variations of poses to go work towards, new ways of playing, and refining. It's a good reminder that there's always more to do, and being such a bound, but open, pose, it's a good illustration that it's that sense of structure that can provide the freedom to explore and play.