Some poses come easily for some of us and other asanas are difficult. We all have poses that we think we will never be able to do in a million years!! However, I disagree with this thinking. The beauty of having a regular home practice means that you can 'study' the asana that is your most difficult, instead of avoiding it. Below is my example of breaking down and studying a difficult pose. This method can be applied to any pose.
Lolasana - the mother of all poses! - and I don't mean that in a nice way!!
Lolasana is a pose that has always eluded me. My issue was that I couldn't seem to get my brain around what was actually required. Because I couldn't understand Lolasana academically I didn't have a way of translating the 'thinking' of the pose to the 'doing' of the pose. I came across an excellent article by Richard Rosen which has allowed me to find a path to understand and practice the pose. At Teacher's Practice last Friday we followed his reasoning and we all commented on how useful this was. I hope the following will help you to understand Lolasana too, when you are ready to take it on.
Breaking down or deconstructing Lolasana, or any asana, is a great way to practice.
Benefits of the Pose
Strengthens wrists, tones arms, develops abdominal muscles and strengthens back muscles.
Wrist injuries, shoulder pain or serious neck issues.
Round the Torso
Start on the hands and knees with your knees below the hips. Place your hands a few centimetres in front of your shoulders, spread your palms and press the mounds of your index fingers to the floor. On an exhalation press your tailbone down toward the floor and forward toward your pubic bone and round your back up toward the ceiling to create an arch. Let your head hang to release the back of your neck and lengthen as much as possible between the tip of your coccyx and the base of your skull.
Spread your shoulder blades as far away from your spine as possible, as if you're wrapping them around the sides of your torso. Counter this outward movement by hugging the outer arms inward, as if you were squeezing the arms together. Combining these two actions helps to round your back and strengthen your arms. Your back torso will form a lovely arch (in a perfect world)! In a perfect world the space between the shoulder blades should lift, instead of sinking to the floor.
As per the energy channels that yogis mapped out thousands of years ago, the outer arm channel runs from the shoulder to the little finger (down the outer arm), while the inner channel runs from the base of the index finger up to the shoulder (up the inner arm). On your hands and knees again, round your back by spreading the scapulas into the resistance of the outer arms from shoulder to floor. Then, the counter action is from the mound of the index finger to the shoulder. Feel how the outer arm channel anchors you to the floor (creating an earth element in the pose) and the inner arm channel lifts you toward the ceiling. Hold this circuit for a few breaths then release back to a neutral position. Repeat a few times.
The belly is the final part of the jigsaw. On your hands and knees again in a table top position, round your back again but now lift the navel towards your spine and reduce the space between your pubis and sternum. Counter the lift of your navel by pressing your index finger mounds into the floor. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then release and take a few breaths.
Putting it Together
Use blocks under the hands (as per the image from our Friday Teachers' Practice). Kneel with your thighs and torso perpendicular to the floor and hands on blocks beside the hips. Cross your right ankle under your left, sit your buttocks back on your left heel - warming: this is not pleasant.
Press your hands to the blocks and on an inhalation, lengthen your front torso. On an exhalation, round up your torso, lift your knees away from the floor but keep your feet on the ground. Work on all of the points for the belly, arms, scapulas and hands. This is the first step. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
The next stage is to do what you just did but this time lift the shins away from the floor as your lift your knees on an exhalation. Lastly, with the right ankle below the left, lift your left knee off the floor, then when you exhale into your round ball, push that knee downward, using the right ankle as a fulcrum, and squeeze your right shin firmly up. The left leg will act like a lever to lift the ball of your body away from the floor. Hold for as long as you can then reverse and do on the other side. When finished, sit back on the heels with a straight spine for a few breaths.
As Richard Rosen quotes in his article on Lolasana, 'Remember what Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed'. Level 2 students will particularly appreciate that quote as they have been studying the Gita.