Laghu vajrasana: Now available with criminality and rationale

It is a Moon Day, so I will muse about a recent indiscretion.

Yesterday, I did laghu vajrasana the David Swenson way.

As my backbends improve, my laghu vajrasana has changed. Before, it was all tension, tension, tension. I could lever myself back using my thighs, grab my ankles, hold, and then pop back up. All courtesy of the inflexibility of my back and the strength of my quads.

Now, I curl back more into the pose, and there are alternations of relax/bend and tension-to-sustain-the-return. More a play of relax, tension, relax, tension as I touch my head to the floor but don’t release all the way down.

This feels good, from a bending perspective, but it also makes it much harder to come up.

For a good while, I stopped at ustrasana, because I knew I could do the laghu vajrasana using strength and inflexibility, but didn’t want to cultivate it that way. So how to turn laghu vajrasana into more bend, into more of a transition (bendwise, rather then strength-wise) between ustrasana and kapotasana?

I want the ustrasana/laghu v/kapo gauntlet to be a step-by-step ratcheting up of the backbend. This is a “losing” proposition, given my inherent strengths (i.e., not backbending). My performance will only degrade over the course of the three asanas, since I am basically upping the ante and asking myself to do more and more of what I don’t do well.

Alternatively, I could use the gauntlet as a way to showcase strength. In that scenario, which I’ve been avoiding, I can feel like I am “successful” at ustrasana and laghu vajrasana, but be foiled by kapo. It is, honestly, tempting to use this latter plan, because I get two successes and one failure. In the former scenario, it’s a more disappointing trajectory: success, struggle, disaster.

Anyhow, that was my thinking yesterday at the crack of dawn.

So I went for the David Swenson version (yes, I know, not-Mysore-approved) of holding thighs rather than ankles. It required more bend, more chest opening — and was a b*tch to come up from.

Success (ustrasana), struggle (DS laghu v), disaster (kapotasana).

Oh well, if I don’t make this more difficult for myself, who will?

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7 Responses

  1. I really love doing it this way. By looking at it, it seemed so much harder, but when actually in it, I found it to be so expansive! Plus it is easier as the center of gravity is more toward the knees. I heard that this was the now kept in the attic brother of the mysore approved lagu. Interesting…

  2. Karen, quit thinking at the crack of dawn! That’s not the right time of day for thinking!

    When you say your performance “degrades” over the sequence of the three poses, do you mean that your back feels progressively less flexible? Or do you mean you lose the power from your quadriceps?

  3. Right! No thinking at the crack of dawn! Must remember! 🙂

    My performance in “the gauntlet” degrades in terms of coordinating what could be progressively MORE flexibility as each pose leads to the next. My breath freaks out, if I don’t watch it carefully; my mind gets batty — all the usual asana challenges.

    This all takes place at the end of my practice, so I am at my psychological and physical limits in some ways. I know it’ll get better with practice, though!

  4. Hi Karen
    I love the funnyness of the title. You know, I think even Swenson will say, in his workshops, that the position was changed since he first described it in the book. When I took a workshop with him here, he said it was more important to have an inward rotating action in the thighs, so that the spine would spring up in Laghu. He demonstrated that and asked us to try the rotation action and get the feeling of the spine coming back up.

    When I recently practiced in Lino’s room, he admonished me for not reaching the head to the floor in Laghu. I know it’s more difficult to come back up, but I now don’t start counting the breaths until I reach the floor with the head.

    Swenson also changed his approached to kapotasana from what he described in the book, getting the hands way over the head, rather than briging them to the floor to then walk them in. He credited his wife for the suggestion.

    Cheers, Arturo

  5. Hi Karen,

    I’m at the same point as you in my practice, and I feel the same way about Kapo. I’m tired, my breathing is really scandalous, even before I get into the pose (I think I start quasi-hyperventilating in preparation and I can’t stop myself), and I flip out generally. Apparently I’m doing a decent expression of the pose, but I feel in danger of getting sucked into some kind of vortex while it’s going on.

    Have you noticed feeling differently in these postures depending on the time of day that you do them? When I drop in on Tuesday night’s mysore, I am sooo much less apt to freak out than in the morning.

    I’m starting to wonder when my entire practice (my entire day, sometimes) isn’t going to be tipping on kapotasana. Ugh.

  6. Karen – I know what you’re going though. My teacher says that the one thing I have to do – the only thing I have to do – is BREATHE in kapotasana.

    As or Laghu – my understanding is that it’s about the strength, not about the flex. Widening your stance – a la David Williams – makes it nearly impossible (for me) to come up. Same with kapotasana B. I can’t come up unless my thighs are parallel.

    I honestly think you are thinking too much about the backbending and making too much drama of it. Just DO it. Stop planning and strategizing. Just DO he backbends. They will improve. I have to believe that.

  7. hi! kinda new to your blog- I try to cut down on my blog reading since I’m self employed and there’s no one paying me to slack off anymore! But- I’ve enjoyed skimming your entries. I’m going to dig in deeper soon! Laghu caught my eye because I had so much trouble with it (still do- but I can manage it). It’s the only posture that has made me so mad I wanted to punch the wall! ha! It just seems like it shouldn’t be so hard! I engage every single muscle possible. I keep my arms ramrod straight at all times and this helps me get some leverage up (I’m grabbing my ankles, arms straight). Also, and this depends on if your teacher will let you- I used to do prep-Laghu drops and ups. Like- one breath down, keep engaged, come up. Sucks, but it helped to build stamina. good luck with it- it’ll come easier eventually. I don’t hate it anymore and that’s saying a lot!

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