Look, Ma! No hands!

Or, another way to up the core intensity in not-so-core-centric asanas, this time focusing on the obliques.

There are 3 lateral bending poses I want to examine: side angle, triangle, and half moon. Except, let’s look at them with my super awesome stick figure drawings, where a similar trait has been highlighted:

Stick figure drawing of side angle pose, lower arm drawn in red.

Side angle: one of these sticks is not like the others.

Stick figure drawing of triangle pose, lower arm drawn in red.

Triangle: noticing a pattern yet?

Stick figure drawing of half moon pose, lower arm drawn in red.

Half moon: third time's a charm!

Two things:

  1. Each side bend requires the obliques to support progressively more body weight, either due to gravity (i.e., the torso is farther off the ground in half moon and triangle than it is in side angle) or to added weight (in half moon, the back leg is raised off the ground, needing to be supported rather than supporting).
  2. Each side bend is helped by that supporting hand, whether the hand is weight-bearing or is primarily there for balance.

How to ramp up the core work? Take away the supporting hand. But gradually, maybe. I’ve found that removing my support (YOGA TIP: SOMETIMES IT IS JUST PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT) hand too fast is an excellent way for me to fall on my face and/or ass. (PS — Falling on my face and ass at the same time, we call that multitasking. Marvel at my efficiency.)

I use the process outlined below, and I sort of spiral this across the three outlined asanas. In other words, I might wait to feel comfortable with a particular hand position in side angle before I try it in triangle, and to feel stable in triangle before I try it in half moon. And just because a certain expression of a certain pose is my edge on one day does not mean this is what will serve me best in other moments, on other days. I find it useful to feel my way into poses, moving gradually:

If I’m comfortable with my fingers (and palm) are on the floor, I try tenting my fingers so only my 5 fingertips (or pads of my fingers) are touching. (Think Catwoman claws.)

If I’m okay with 5 fingertips, I try 2 fingertips.

If I’m stable with 2, I try 1.

If I can maintain my core support and balance with just one finger on the ground, then I very gently try to lift that. There is a place of almost hands free that is one finger ever so slightly brushing the floor: It makes my core work almost as hard as the no hands version but gives an infinite amount of mental security.

And when that place is no longer my edge, I take that one barely touching finger away, my hand a few centimeters above the floor or maybe all the way to my heart or opposite side waist. Maybe I topple out of the pose or maybe I don’t; the important thing is that I’m hearing my body and listening to what it says back.


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

Posted in asana, core, present

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