Read the first part of the article here
Tadāsana - Mountain Pose
The first pose/āsana which I shall consider in more detail is called Tadāsana, “Mountain Pose”.
First, I'll describe the frequently practiced variation that B.K.S. Iyengar describes in detail in his book "Light on Yoga" 1969/1993, and then I'll recommend my version inspired by the Axis Syllabus lexicon.
In this standing position (Fig. 1) the feet are closed, so that the inner edges of the medial portion of the feet are touching. The kneecaps (patella) are deliberately pulled upward (superior), so that the thigh muscle is contracted (especially the quadriceps femoris working concentrically). The shoulder blades (scapula) should be rolled back (adduction, depression) and drawn towards the vertebral column. Palms should face toward the body (pronation).
In the variation that I practice (Fig. 1a), the feet are opened slightly, offering a combination of Tadāsana/Mountain Pose and Samasthiti/Upright Prayer Position, in which the feet are in a parallel-aligned position. The heels are closer together, so that the feet are slightly opened and outwardly rotated at 20-30°. This foot position 1 is defined by the position of the femur at the hip joint, which in standing allows a nearly stretching (extension) of the hip joint in a neutral / 0° position. 2 (Fig. 1a)
In the of B.K.S. Iyengar oriented position, it may happen that the arch falls inside (medial). The center of gravity is transferred from the distal end of the tibia (os tibia) to the anklebone (talus) and onto the heel bone (calcaneus).
To counteract the medial sinking arch, the student would need to press the toes into the floor along the longitudinal arch, by raising the flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum longus muscles. The transverse arch is mostly stabilized by the muscles of tibialis posterior, peroneus longus, plantar fascia (aponeurosis plantaris), and adductor hallucis.
In the neutral position it is necessary not to "pull up" the arch of the foot. The center of gravity is distributed to the meta-centers of the feet. 3 The pelvis can find a neutral position and consquently the cranial alignment of the vertebral column to respect the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical curves. The often described "pulling back" of the shoulder blades, I feel is inadvisable, as this flattens the kyphosis of the thoracic spine and also generates dispensable tension.
Since many yoga sequences, especially the sun salutation, begin and conclude with tadasana, here follows a possible exercise approach for tadasana basic awareness with the following exercises.
"Stand up," says B.K.S. Iyengar, "or your higher self collapses". 4
In my experience, a neutral, open foot position enables me to practice everything that the situation requires: stability, sustainability, unobstructed breathing, and if applicable, shifting weight. And above all, ease.
Utkatāsana – Powerful Pose or Chair Pose
Here, I'll describe the frequently practiced variation. The position is classified as a simple standing posture with axial extension. 5
There are different variations. Similar to tadāsana, is either practiced with parallel or feet together.
With feet together (Fig. 2) particular attention is paid to the thigh adduction. As described by Leslie Kaminoff, “to protect the knees (...) the external rotation should be kept as little as possible in the hip flexion.” 6.
Waist and arms should be at a 90° angle to the lower body.
Shoulders are in anteversion, elbow extended (extension) and forearms in supination.
Vertebral column is in an axial extension, knee and hip joints are bent (flexion).
In order to prevent a hollow back, many different sources recommend tensing the psoas and abdominal muscles. Often this is also referred to as drawing the tailbone (os coccyx) in the direction of the pubic bone (os pubis).
In the variation that I practice (Fig. 2a), we use the same neutral foot position as in my tadāsana variation. With the hip flexion, the thigh bone (os femuris) rotates outward, so that the articular surface of the femoral head (caput ossis femoris) remains congruent with the acetabulum in flexion.
By having the femur rotate externally, the shin (tibia) rotates inward and the feet are slightly open in the neutral position, and the medial and lateral meniscus of both knees are loaded evenly, to prevent overloading of the medial meniscus.
The lumbar lordosis is maintained.
To facilitate breathing and to support the upper arms from the shoulder axis (SX) as described by Axis Syllabus, the upper arm (os humeri) remains rotated outward at an elevation of approximately 120°. 7
Utkatasana is the beginning of the Sun Salutation B series (Surya Namaskara B). By respecting the shoulder axis arche, injuries such as the overstretching of the glenohumeral ligament can be avoided.
The application of side-bending principles to yoga āsana vocabulary
As per Frey Faust's article, "The Importance of Side-Bending (SB)" 8, a lateral inclination through rotation in the thoracic spine enables greater 3-dimensionality and respects the orientations of the articular surfaces of the spine. In my version of the yoga asanas, I practiced static "Side-Bending" 9 since the body does not move in space, often remaining in the pose for several breaths. I felt that applying the use of SB was a relief, as with this consideration I felt no effort to reach an axial extension in the different positions. Despite the often difficult leg positions.
Utthita Parsvakonāsana - Extended Side Angle Pose
Leslie Kaminoff called this pose a simple, asymmetrical standing pose with a side stretch. 10
Fundamentally, attention is given here to a parallel position (Fig. 3) of the front foot. The front leg: the hip joint in flexion, thigh (os femoris) externally rotated and in abduction, knee bent, foot dorsiflexed. In the rear leg, the hip joint is extended, the thigh and hip joint in a neutral position. The knee is also in extension. The vertebral column is in a lateral tilt. The lower arm supports either in front of or behind the bent leg. The upper arm is considered an extension of the rear straight leg and lengthens long over the head. (Elevation of the scapula, shoulder joint in flexion with external rotation, elbow lengthened)
In the “classical” version of the pose it is often described as difficult to not let the front thigh fall inward. Additionally, an intense flexion of the front hip joint is used to order to lengthen the vertebral column axially.
As I use the neutral foot position in the variation (3a) of Utthita parsvakonāsana, there is less risk of the arch falling inwards (medially). Like in previous positions, the weight can evenly load on both menisci, and the thigh is supported with external rotation. For this, however, the flexion of the front hip joint is important, which is again simplified by side bending (SB).
In yoga classes I have often heard the tip to push the tailbone forward towards the pubis. I find that to be counterproductive, because often I'm in a flexion of the lumbar spine, which makes hip flexion difficult. However, this hip flexion is important for an external rotation of the thigh (os femuris).
If I align the entire vertebral column further forward (anterior), then its neutral length and lumbar lordosis remain available. Thus rotating the anterior aspect of the lumbar spine away (posterior) from the weight-receiving front leg, so that the pelvis (posterior) moves away from the leg. The ribcage goes further forward, because the thoracic spine anteriorly rotates (around the 8-12 thoracic vertebrae). The cervical spine rotates posteriorly.
The lower hand can find support in front of the bent leg. Or as a possible variation for beginners, find support placing the elbow of the lower arm on the anterior thigh. The lengthen upper arm retains the shoulder axis arc (SXA) at an 120° angle, elevated with external rotation and abduction. The SXA describes the angle of the shoulder joint, in which the upper arm during lifting and abducting is stabilized in the joint. By outward rotation of the upper arm when lifting and abducting from 40°, the humeral neck can use the space between coracoid and acromion.
Parivrtta Janu Sirsāsana – Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose
This sedentary exercise (Fig. 4) is classified by Leslie Kaminoff as a moderate lateral rotation.
Gary Kraftsow understood the primary and secondary objectives of side bends to "...not only to preserve the flexibility of the chest, but (...) also to balance out asymmetries in the spine, shoulders, and pelvis. (...)" 12
The different yoga teachers who taught me have always made sure that my body weight is evenly distributed on both buttocks. It also seemed to be important that both shoulders are arranged almost in a vertical line, and that the lateral tilt of the spine is geared to the outstretched leg. That means that the thoracic spine has to be in an intense posterior rotation.
Extended leg: hip joint in flexion, abducted and rotated medially, knee in extension, ankle in dorsiflexion
Folded leg: hip joint in flexion, abducted and rotated laterally, knee in flexion, ankle in plantar flexion, foot supinated
Shoulders/arms: scapula in elevation, adducted, glenohumeral joint in flexion, elbow in extension, forearm supinated
In the variation of parivritta janu sirsāsana (Fig. 4a) that incorporates the possibility of the 3D lateral flexion (SB), I consider it helpful to slide your body weight to the outstretched leg.
Instead of positioning the spine just above the outstretched leg, the entire alignment of the spine can be further in (anterior). As with parivrtta parsvakonāsana the pelvis can move away (posterior) from the weight-receiving front leg. The ribcage goes further forward (anterior), the cervical spine rotates posteriorly. The head has an independent range of motion.
The lower hand, or the elbow (if applicable), may be placed in front of the extended leg. The lengthened upper arm retains the shoulder axis arc (SXA) at 120-130°, elevated and rotated outwardly (laterally).
Adho Mukha Svanāsana – Downward Facing Dog
I'd like to use this pose (Fig. 5) as an example of the hand and arm support because it is widely practiced in yoga classes and is frequently used as a transition or resting position.
In an axial or neutral position of the spine, shoulder and hip joints are in flexion, elbows and knees are extended. Scapula is lifted and abducted, upper arms are externally rotated, elbows are lengthened and forearms are pronated, wrists are lengthened, sacrum is in nutation.
I often had difficulties with the following corrections in the "classical" variation:
As a lot of attention was given to insure that the entire palm, in particular the area between the thumb and forefinger, was touching the ground and taking weight, accordingly the forearm in pronation, the upper arm fully extended but with the elbow rotating away (laterally), my body weight was placed too intensely on the distal end of the radius (radiocarpal joint). Either that, or the humerus would "fall" into a medial rotation, and thus out of the supporting ability of the shoulder joint and the participating muscles of the rotator cuff. (The rotator cuff includes the muscles: subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus,and teres minor. They stabilize the head of the humerus (caput humeri) in the glenoid cavity (cavitas glenoidalis).
Possible variation (Fig. 5a)
The triangular fibrocartilage complex (discus triangularis or discus articularis ulnocarpalis) is composed of fibrocartilage between joint discs on the wrist, and connects the distal ends of the ulna and radius together. And also connects these ends with the carpal bones (ossa carpi). Since the function of this flexible joint disc is comparable with the meniscus (for transfer of weight and force), this can again be taken as an indication to shift the weight to the side of the ulna. Furthermore, this offers the possibility of hand, similarly to the foot, forming an arch to more easily serve as a "shock absorber". 13
Fascia Training and Yoga 14
I try to integrate the findings of fascial trainings advanced by the fascial researchers Thomas Myers, Robert Schleip et al. and added to the Axis Syllabus lexicon by Frey Faust et al., into the practice of yoga postures. The myofascial tissue forms a network; enveloping, supporting, permeating, and unifying almost everything. The collagen fibers penetrate the entire body, cobweb-like, in all directions.
There are, in fact, no blood vessels in fascia, but many nerve endings, which can give pain sensations or cause the fascia tissue to constrict with stress.
Research has shown that fascia are flexible and can adapt to particular demands.
Due to continuous loads or because of a restricted range of motion, the fascia can condense. They entangle and become matted, possibly leading to chronic pain.
In a case of loss of elasticity, self-perception can become more difficult and stiffness is often the result.
Implementation in Yoga Classes
Since myofascial tissue reacts to stretches held for a long time, many yoga poses provide the opportunity to orient the postures with this in mind. Instead of focusing on individual muscle groups, the focus can be directed to the myofascial connections. 15
Here, I think it's especially important to respect the individual anatomical structure of each practitioner. For an elongation held over several minutes to actually reach the fascial connections, it is important to explain the necessary preliminary movements (such as hip flexion for a forward bend). And to then offer a few variations (or example, the benefit of props). And to direct the students' self-perception to the expanded fascial chains.
As an example, I'd like to use the “Downward Facing Dog” Āsana (Ado Mukha Svanāsana). Lightly rotating the legs will help many students achieve the required hip flexion, which is also necessary for maintaining the length and the neutral curves of the spine. In this condition, the students' self-perception can be directed to the expanded fascial chains, which is in this case the Superficial Back Line. 16. The Superficial Back Line connects the entire rear surface of the body – from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head.
To improve self-awareness, different areas of the body can be "bounced" for elasticity or stretched for length, or "rubbed" or "scrubbed" with the hand.
Because of the fine sensors for body awareness (proprioception) found in fascia, which respond to pressure, vibration, direction (among other things), this “scrubbing” offers good preparation for movement. Simultaneously, the pressure applied by “scrubbing” hydrates the tissue.
For example: The scrubbing of the upper arm and the area around the pectoralis major in a downward facing dog (Ado Mukha Svanāsana), eases the raising of the arms overhead.
Or “bouncing” during yoga positions such as down dog increase the elasticity of the respective stretched fascial chains. An example: when a practitioner “bounces” their legs for a few minutes in down dog, the aspect of the SRL (superficial back line) which is involved in this movement, can gain elasticity. 17
According to the fascial researchers, since there are more receptors in the fascia than in the muscles and joints, the fascial network can also be considered the largest sensory organ. Flowing movements promote whole body coordination and strengthen power and agility.
I've found many possibilities for varying the common asanas, here I can only show a small selection of the positions. Of course, there are also examples of the spine, in so-called "backbends", stretched and “bent” backwards (basically the spine cannot bend, rather it requires an extension of the spine), as there are many ways to pay attention and modify alignment to find the most neutral position as possible in the joints. The asanas, which in yoga vocabulary are referred to as inversions, such as the popularly named “candle” or “Salamba Sarvangāsana” (shoulder stand), I only practice and teach a heavily modified version. To me, there is too big a risk of injury, due to the pressure of the body weight on the cervical spine.
I find it problematic that many asanas are practiced in static, isometric and in one-dimensional positions. The one-dimensional approach emphasizes, for example, a pure lateral inclination (lateral flexion) and a rotation around an axis, which can damage joints and ligaments after years of practice. Many yoga practitioners want fitness, increased strength, and a greater range of motion. To some extent it is promoted in advertising that “yoga alone” is sufficient for achieving these goals. But, for example, in static positions an isometric muscle contraction takes place, thus reducing the blood supply to muscle fibers, and the muscle cannot achieve efficient strengthening. 18. Of course, a student gets to feel “strong” when holding a position such as one of the warrior poses, despite the thigh becoming tired. Certainly this feeling of achievement can also contribute to strengthening their own well-being. However, if this position is maintained by isometric muscle work, then the muscle is not getting stronger.
Endurance is not increased in yoga classes. 19. It doesn't have to be. But here I think it's important not to make false promises in the classroom and in advertising. If the students are looking for it, there are many options (such as jogging, swimming, among others) a teacher can point to.
In conclusion, I would say that yoga is one of many opportunities to focus on the present, and also offers positive effects for stress management and self-acceptance. 20. I regularly get very positive feedback from my students, who enjoy incorporating a little more motion and mindfulness into daily life. The exercise concept can easily be adapted to the particular student's movement experience and also the yoga practice does not require much space or preparation: The size of a yoga mat is perfectly adequate for the practice, and thus for mindful movements, to be integrated into everyday life.
Diana Thielen, edited by Nicola Bolzau / Frey Faust, translated by Zack Bernstein
1 Hereinafter referred to as neutral foot position
2 The freedom of movement is given as the maximum deflection of the joint from the neutral position in angle degrees, the neutral position is denoted by 0 °.
3 "Metatarsal Weight Distribution Center": Position the feet, where the body weight is delivered optimally; The intersection of the medial front side of the os cuboid, os cuneiform lateral front side of the third rear lateral part of the fourth metatarsal and the medial rear portion of the fifth metatarsal
4 Richard Rosen, 2.Sept. "Tadasana" Yoga Aktuell
5 2007 Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, p.51
6 2007, Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, p.51, Key Points
7 The shoulder axis according to AS terminology describes inner, vertical axis; the relationship between the head of the humerus (os greater tuberosity) and the neck of the humerus
8 2011 Frey Faust, The Axis Syllabus universal motor principles, p.135
9 In following referred to as SB
10 2007, Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, p.72
11 2000 Donna Farhi, Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, p.100
12 2006, Gary Kraftsaw, power source yoga The practice book of Viniyoga, p.92
13 Wikipedia, triangular fibrocartilage, 2014
14 Tom Myers-10-Tips-for-fascial fitness; Schleip et al. "training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications", Thomas W.Myers "Anatomy Trains"; Annette Bach "Faszientraining in Yoga" and private email contact with T.Myers answering my specific questions
15 2010 Thomas W. Myers, Anatomy Trains: In the book, the author discusses the functional relationships of the muscle-fascial chains. Thomas W. Myers uses this metaphor of rails and railway lines, which must correspond with one another. p.5: the word “myofascia” describes the inextricably interrelated unit of muscle (myo) and the surrounding connective tissue it network (fascia)
16 2010 Thomas W. Myers, Anatomy Trains, p.91f
17 In this case it would be the plantar surface of the toes, Phalangender; Fascia plantaris / Zehflexoren; M.gastrocnemius / Achilles tendon; hamstrings; ischial tuberosity
18 Yoga and Fitness, viveka Nr. 29
19 2012 William J. Broad, The science of yoga what it promises and what it can p.118/119, study Alison Ross / Sue Thomas "The health benefits of Yoga and Exercises: A Review of Comparison Studies"
20 Steffen Brandt, Yoga on the test bench, viveka Nr. 61
Biel, Andrew, 2005 Trail Guide to the Body, Books of Discovery, 3rd Edition
Broad, William J., 2012 The Science of Yoga, Herder GmbH,
Farhi, Donna, 2000, Yoga Mind Body & Spirit, Holt Paperback, 1st Edition
Faust, Frey, 2011 The Axis Syllabus-universal motor principles, blurb, 3rd Edition
Huchzermeyer, Wilfried, 2006 The Yoga Dictionary, edition Savitri, 2nd Edition
Kaminoff, Leslie, Yoga Anatomy, 2010 rivaverlag, 5th Edition
Kraftsow, Gary, 2006 Power Source Yoga, vianova, 1.Auflage
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Dalmann, Imogen and Soder, Martin, How Yoga heals, 2013 viveka
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Heather, Melissa, Extreme Makeover: Yoga in the British Empire
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viveka Nr. 29, Yoga and Fitness
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http://www.yoga-aktuell.de/ck17-yoga-main/ck23-āsana/āsana-workshop-tadasana/, checked on 07/25/14
Wikipedia, triangular fibrocartilage, 2014
checked on 07/25/14
dodo, September 6, 2013 Cultural appropriation / Cultural Appropriation, Mädchenbloq,
http://maedchenblog.blogsport.de/2013/09/06/kulturelle-aneignungcultural-appropriation-linkspam/, checked on 07/25/14
Past and Present - What is Yoga?, Berlin Yoga Center
http://www.byz.de/yoga/index.html, checked on 07/25/14
see also asanas on the internet:
1.Tadāsana- The Mountain Pose,
2. Utkatasana - Powerful Pose or Chair Pose
3. Utthita Parsvakonāsana- Extended Side Angle Pose
4. Parivrtta Janu Sirsāsana- Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose