Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lift Off Into Twisted Scissors

Recently I was talking to a few students after class about how to get into Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (twisted scissors) and while I showed them one method and they rocked it, I have been trying to think of other ways to transition into this posture.  There are a thousand ways to skin a cat...or “a hundred ways to kiss the ground” I guess is a more yogic way of expressing my point.  Anyway. Play with it and see what works best for you.  
Twisted scissor crow and scissor crow are two of the more basic arm balance postures taught, usually after Bakasana or Crow.  These postures will strengthen the shoulders, triceps and forearms and makes you really engage your core.  What I like most about arm balances are they are so unpredictable...one day you can rock it...the next day maybe not so much. You bring total awareness to the subtle energy running throughout all parts of your body from your core extending out the top of your head and out the tips of your toes. Your body has to be fully engaged.  There is no room for casualty or laxity. The most minute movement can have a profound effect of the posture...either greater expression or you could crash and burn.  But it’s all good.  Falling is part of learning.
To prepare, do several rounds of Surya Namaskar A to warm up the connection between the body and breath.  The posture requires flexibility in the hips, hamstrings and torso so perform several rounds of the following flow sequence on the left and right sides (hold each posture for 5 full breaths):

From standing sink your hips down into chair pose
Step back to crescent lunge, twist or create fly away arms
Warrior 2
Twisted low lunge
Side plank
Three legged down dog then float knee to nose
Three legged down dog then float knee to same elbow
 Three legged down dog then float knee to opposite elbow
The first method for coming into Eka Pada Koundinyasana II is, I think, the easier way and a good place to start if you are just beginning to explore this posture.  This method is easier because you are balancing your hips on both arms as opposed to just one arm. 

Start in a squat position with your hands on the mat, palms just under shoulders.  Squat high on the balls of your feet and with your thighs, knees and lower legs pressed together, twist your legs to the right.  
Lower down to chatturanga arms and begin to place your left hip on your right elbow and your outer left thigh on your right elbow. Looking about a 12 to 18 inches in front of you, start to shift horizontally forward and begin to lift your feet off the ground using the backs of your arms as a table top.  
Now, with full awareness of your balance, start to extend your left leg while extending your right leg back.  As you move your right leg back you have to continue to counterbalance the movement by extending horizontally through the top of your head and into your fingertips.
In the second method, begin in Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).  Lift your right leg and extend the ball of your foot up to the ceiling, inner thighs pressing up and back.

Float your shoulders over your wrists and draw your right knee towards your left armpit.  Create space by pulling your low belly toward your spine and slightly rounding your back. 

Lower into chaturanga arms so that your biceps are parallel to the mat.  Place the outside of your right thigh high on your left upper arm.  You can keep your left toes down for now. Gaze 12-18 inches in front of you and start to shift horizontally forward into your fingertips, coming higher on your left toes.  Hug your core in and engage both legs entirely while extending thru your collarbones. As you shift forward, your back leg will begin to lift.  Hold for a few breaths then step back to chaturanga and take a vinyasa.  
Key tips to keep in mind:
  • It’s not as hard as it may look.  Don’t assume you can’t do it.  Try it. Play with it.  You may be surprised at how strong you really are. But if you can’t imagine it, you can’t have it.  
  • It’s more about finding that sweet balancing spot and flexibility than it is about strength.
  • Many people try to go into the pose with a casual back leg.  It won’t happen that way.  The posture requires full commitment from your entire body...from your fingertips to toe tips.
What are your tips for coming into twisted scissors?