“Put your oxygen mask on first.” That’s what we always hear from the attendants just before a flight. When you are sitting next to a young child or a loved one, you might have second thoughts. But, this is a good lesson and reminder for all of us. If someone needs our help, we need to have something to give if we are going to do any good. If we are passed out due to lack of oxygen, we are no help to anyone, especially those who are most dear to us.
The sage Viśvāmitrā is a great example of this. In yogic lore, it is said that when he was King, he was so compassionate of his subjects that he would do anything to help them. He would go so far to help that he would deplete all of his energy, to the point where he was completely spent. (I certainly can relate.) Viśvāmitrā would routinely exhaust his energy and need to replenish. At these times he would return to his practices of meditation and penance to refuel and restore.
This week’s PowerPose, Viśvāmitrāsana is dedicated to the sage. Just has he routinely gave all his energy, you may feel that way while cultivating this balancing posture. This complicated posture requires balancing in side plank, bind-ready shoulders, open hips, and elastic hamstrings. Mūla bandha or the energetic lift through the pelvic floor is also needed to create stability in the pose. The poses that have been highlighted over the last few weeks, Parivṛtta Sūrya Yantrāsana, Vasiṣṭhāsana Variation, and Supta Pādānguṣṭhāsana, will help to prepare you for Viśvāmitrāsana.
Try these variations to deepen your practice:
Option 1 – Kneeling Pick Up Foot: From a fingertip lunge with the right foot forward, bring the back knee down. Sink the hips forward finding as much space through the hips and hip flexors as possible. Snuggle the right shoulder behind the right knee, bringing the hand to the ground on the outside of the foot. At minimum, the knee needs to stay above the elbow joint. The further you can get the shoulder behind the knee, the more stable the pose becomes. Move the bottom foot behind you like a kickstand. Reach the left hand to the blade edge of the right foot. Engage mūla bandha, starting with a lift of the pelvic floor, and pick up the foot. Make sure the supporting or right shoulder is stable. Ensure that the knee stays above the elbow joint. Breath as you maintain balance, then try the other side.
Option 2 – Extend the Top Leg: From Option 1, if your balance is stable, begin to extend the top leg as you draw the arm and shoulder behind you opening through the heart. Create space through both sides of the body as you expand. You may need to reset, bringing the hand further away from the back knee, so you have enough space. Make the foundation or base a bigger priority than extending the leg completely. You may need to work in stages building up to a leg that is at complete extension. Monitor the hip and hamstring and only go as far as the body allows.
Option 3 – Plant the Back Foot: When you feel you can explore this pose while keeping the bottom shoulder stable and safe, build to plant the back foot. From a fingertip lunge, plant the back foot like a Warrior II foot. With only one foot for balance, it’s important that you use the full footprint for stability. Press through the blade edge of the foot while keeping the arch edge rooted. The toes will gently grip the mat. Image you can suction the foot to the floor through the arch. Begin to snuggle the shoulder under the knee just like you did in the kneeling variation. Work in stages to pick up the foot and begin to find extension. Work slowly and mindfully, so you do not strain the bottom shoulder or hamstring. If needed, us a short strap or binding ring to reach the foot.
Option 4 – Viśvāmitrāsana: When you are ready, find full expansion, extending the leg completely. Press through the ball of the foot to create length through the top of the extended leg. As the shoulders allow, turn the heart skyward. It’s a simliar feeling as finding expansion in a Bound Side Angle Pose. For me, it feels like opening the windows and breathing life into a stuffy room. To take this pose one step further, release the hold of the leg and keep the shape of the pose and suspension of the leg. The top hand extends upward.
As you practice this week, consider your role as a caregiver or sharer of compassion. Do you give everything you have? How do you resupply your energy when you are depleted? Is this part of your daily practice and life?
Find the right challenge specifically for you and remember to include aspects of the practice that will refuel and replenish you. Follow this #PowerPose challenge @suzannewrightyoga on Instagram or at Suzanne Wright Yoga on Facebook. If you post your pictures or about your experience be sure to tag #PowerPose and @suzannewrightyoga.