Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Project Vrschikasana

Photo: Master teacher, B.K.S Iyengar, in Vrschikasana

Over the past year or so, I have been intrigued by the way rock climbers approach progress.  Being that my fiance is a climber, I get insight on this topic on a fairly regular basis.  Right away, I started noticing the similarities between climbing and yoga in regard to getting stronger and training your body/mind to do something new and play the edge.  One of the methods climbers use is "projecting" a route.  Which means they pick a route that they want to be able to climb clean (without falling or weighting the rope) and they do it over and over until they get it.  Sometimes they work solely on a specific section or crux of the route.  Other times they work on routes with similar technique to prepare them for whats needed to climb their project route.  Now, I know I am making this sound pretty simple and straight forward, but (like yoga) there are many ways to approach advancing as a climber.  This is just one way.  I should probably put a disclaimer in here... I am not claiming to fully understand how climbers train.  I am just relating the little bit I do know to a yoga practice.  This is my interpretation only. My point is that we can do the same thing with yoga poses.  Sure, this is not how I recommend practicing daily, but lately I've had huge success learning advanced poses by applying this method to my practice.  Sometimes it takes a climber a short time to nail their project.  Other times it can take months or even years.  Depends on the circumstances.  Just like yoga.  

With all of that being said, I have decided to structure my Sunday 2 hr advanced group practice like this.  For an entire month, we work on the same peak pose.  This means, we usually get at least 4 classes to practice working toward something new or refining a pose we can already do.  This month our project is Scorpian, or Vrschikasna.  I chose this pose because many folks associate advanced yoga with this pose, due to marketing and/or high volume of use in photography, etc.  Many people have seen this pose, but don't know how to work it without a wall or a friend to spot. Its a hard pose that requires both strength and flexibility. This is the perfect pose to project in this class.  Each week, I lead the group through a new sequence designed to target a specific action or shape within this pose.  By the end of the month, my hope is that we all have the tools needed to project this pose.  Some will nail the pose within 4 classes, some will need months or even years.  The point is, we all roll out our mats every Sunday and practice working hard and staying focused.  Its a different way to practice. 

I will do my best to post our sequences every week, so if you miss a class you can have the sequence to work with at home.  Also for those who aren't in St. Louis who would like play along.  If you have questions/feedback/suggestions please don't hesitate to comment on my blog or email me.  I would love to hear how this is going for you.


Week one: shoulder emphasis

Surya A – slow 3X
Surya B – slow 3X w/shoulder alignment drills
Down Dog (AMS) refinement – arm bones lift up, chest toward chin, extend spine
AMS - one leg up, shoulders square
Trikonasana - hand on back of head
Plank hold - shoulder blades together, tailbone down 
Shalabasana - hands bound 1X, hands/arms out in front 1X
Ardha Bhekasana 
Ardha Chandrachapasana
AMS – work one foot to head like scorpian
Pincha - legs at wall, curl chest toward floor
Pincha - soles of feet on wall, knees bent, look at floor 
Pigeon prep – thigh stretch
Urdvha Dhanurasana – 3-5X ONE HOUR MARK!
Eka Pada Bhekasana in Ustrasana (work this as a huge quad stretch, not as a peak pose)
Rajakapotasana – hands in front (fingertips option) 2x
Scorpian solo, middle of room (attempt at least 10-20X)
Down Dog
Janu sirsasana 2X
Supta balasana


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