Mmmmmmmmmmm. That is the sound I make when moving into this grounding and body opening pose. It is within Upavistha Konasana that I always feel the beautiful yogic balance of strengthening and softening, or sthira and sukha.
Tiny movements in this pose change the sensations in the body, and in the mind. The often neglected inner thighs and groin area can stir up lots of activity in the mind, like “why can’t I get to the floor?” Do not compare yourself to others, and remember that you are not who you are based on your ability to move into this pose, or any other pose.
Upavistha Konasana is just one more adventure to somewhere new and exciting. (Special thanks to my super zen partner, Chiquita, for joining me on today’s journey.)
Upavistha Konasana stretches the back, hamstrings, groin and shoulders, strengthens the spine and abdominals, stimulates the abdominal organs,and alleviates sciatic and arthritis pain. In addition, Upavistha Konasa calms the mind, leading to better sleep, memory, and focus, as well as balancing mood and alleviating anxiety.
The most important part of Upavistha Konasana is a long, straight spine. If you do not currently have the flexibility to sit on the floor with your legs extended and a tall spine, like your hairline at your neck is attached to a silver thread from the sky, start here:
ONE, TWO, THREE: bolster & blocks
- Sit on a bolster, or cushion, with blocks under the calves for added support to the knee joint.
- Feet are flexed, toes to the sky. Quads are gently activated.
- Gently press your hands into the bolster to elongate the spine with every inhale, deeply pulling the belly in on every exhale.
- If that is feeling good, and your body beckons you to move, imagine that silver thread pulling you forward, like drawing a half rainbow from your head.
- The pelvis begins to move WITH the head, one straight line from the tailbone out the crown of the head.
- Keep the belly pulled in to support the spine.
- Flex the feet to support the stretch in the legs and back.
- Keep moving forward as it feels good in YOUR body!
FOUR, FIVE: Less bolster, a little block
- Ready to move on? Remove the bolster! Hamstrings still a little tight? Keep the blocks, moving them more above the knee for support.
- Maintain your long, straight spine, pulling the belly in as you begin to fold, gentle pressure through the hands to help support the lengthening of the body while keeping the shoulders soft and away from the ears.
SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT: You’re doing great!
WHOO HOOO! Remove the blocks! Your body knows what to do from here.
- Continue to use your breath to lengthen and fold.
- Keep flexing through the feet, toes to the sky.
- Don’t forget to firm up your abdominal wall to support the spine.
To me, this may be the yummiest place of all. Find a deep melting into the earth, falling into the pattern of your breath as you create stillness in the mind, hands wide like a gentle hug. (The “hugging” also helps to continue to create the lengthening back of the tailbone and a straight spine.) Where can you find a little more muscle support in one area (feet, quads, hands?), to find a little more softness in another?
I highly recommend using a block under the forehead here. You are SO CLOSE to the ground, but a long spine is key. Plus, I love the connection of my forehead, or third-eye center to the earth… without squishing my nose! Play with the sensation of gently pressing your forehead into the block and feeling how it changes the sensations in the tailbone as it “moves further away”. Keep growing!
You have options here. Want a more “active” fold? Use your index and third fingers to hold the big toe, flexing through the foot, engage the shoulder blades toward each other, and lengthen the CHIN forward, chest pressing toward the mat. (This is not my preferred method, as I have jaw issues, and if you are like me, I do not recommend this… regardless of what a google search will find you!)
OR, gently place your cheek on the mat, giving the earth a hug from the front of the shoulder through the finger tips to keep the weight out of your neck, and to continue to send your lower torso into the earth. So grounding! Play with that balance of effort and ease. Breathe into the sensations, making subtle and gentle movements to melt into the mat.
Wherever you are in the journey to the floor, know that wherever you are on any given day is ENOUGH. You are enough. Where you are in the pose is enough. Find stillness, drawing your senses in to your breath, and maybe even repeating to yourself “I am enough, I am enough, I am enough.”
To release, slowly and gently push through the hands, under the shoulders, maintaining you straight spine until you return to your seated position.
Finish by gently curling up the sides of your mouth.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”Thich Nhat Hanh
Want more? Chiquita here is clearly sending vibes of “is this really necessary?”, and I would agree. BUT, when you’re really working your flexibility, (hello dancers and gymnasts, and ladies of a certain age who want to continue to “kick and stretch”) it’s the next place to go. Blocks CAN make things more difficult… but that’s for another blog.
Until we meet again, and I hope we do soon, be well.
From my heart,