My New Favourite Pose

03 Oct 2018, 7:34pm -

Health Advice

- About Home Practice
by Nina

When you really tune into your body, you may notice that certain areas are particularly tight or restricted, maybe even so much so that they’re contributing to some pain you’ve been experiencing. And when you do, maybe you can identify a yoga pose or two that will help you stretch that area and provide some relief. However, that may require some thinking outside the box. After all, although there are hundreds of modern yoga poses, I’m guessing your typical daily practice doesn’t include all of them. So, it may be that there is a perfect pose out there for you to be practicing that you still need to discover or remember from having done once or twice in the past.

This is true for me. Although I have arthritis in my lower lumbar spine, I realized lately that the “back pain” I experience is actually in my upper buttocks (the muscles over my sacrum, which as I learned yesterday, is at the wrong angle) not my lower back. And when I have body work done in that area, I feel a great sense of relief. So, I started to wonder how I could stretch that area with a yoga pose.

And I was suddenly reminded of a pose that I practiced once or twice in Donald Moyer’s class that was basically a reclined from of Paschimottanasana but whose name I can never remember. The pose name is Jathara Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana, which translates as Abdominal Lift Upward Facing Western Intense Stretch Pose. (I will be able to remember it from now on because Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana part from now on because that just means Upward Facing Paschimottanasana and Jathara is abdominal) Here is what it looks like:

First of all, don’t be scared by looking at this photo. It doesn't look like that when I do it! Obviously only very flexible people can get their legs that close to their heads (just like classic Paschimottanansa). So, if you want to practice it, you can hold your feet or lower legs wherever they come to with straight arms or even, like classic Paschimottanasana, use a strap around your feet.

As for me, although it appears that this pose is typically practiced as an active pose, I remembered that in Donald’s class we actually practiced it as a supported pose, with a bolster under the pelvis. And in order to get a good long stretch, I knew the supported version would be better for me, as I could relax more and hold the pose for two minutes (the amount of time it takes to create lasting changes in both muscles and fascia). Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this.

But, indeed, when I practiced the supported version of this pose, I did feel a sense of relief—not immediately after doing it, but definitely the next day. So, I made a commitment last month to myself to practice this pose three times a week and see what happens.First of all, I noticed right away that after about two minutes in the pose, there was a definitely “letting go” and I could bring my feet closer to my head. So, I decided to hold for three minutes instead to continue stretching in the two-minute position. Then I started to notice that I felt more freedom in general in my pelvis during my month of practicing.

Yesterday, I told my chiropractor, who is also a yoga practitioner, about my experiment and she was very enthusiastic. She said that based on looking lower spine and sacrum in my X-rays, stretching the muscles over my sacrum with this pose made perfect sense. So my experiment will continue.

Meanwhile I just wanted to encourage those of you who are experiencing pain somewhere due to tightness or gripping to really tune into where that restriction is. Then think about what pose or poses might help you stretch out that area—or ask your yoga teacher for some suggestions—and give them a try. Who knows what you will discover.

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