Namaste hands versus hands overhead

It occurred to me that when I do namaste hands at the start of dropbacks, I get some internal shoulder rotation. Which leaves me landing with kinda bent arms (“kinda bent arms” is a technical yoga term). I default to unconscious internal shoulder rotation as a matter of course (i.e., in daily life), so getting past it is probably going to take some conscious effort.

Okay. The next three screen captures are a dropback with namaste hands — sequenced so you can see the drop.




I’ve been thinking and theorizing about this since I finished my practice on Friday, so obviously I had to try hands overhead dropbacks this morning to see if I landed with my arms more locked out.

To set up for overhead dropbacks, I extended my arms and actually rotated my palms to face the back of the room. That makes for a good external rotation, which locks my arms out. Something I cannot do, apparently, on the fly.

Here are three screen caps of the overhead dropback.




Yup, straighter arms with the overhead dropback. It’s also interesting, as I sit here typing this, I can feel a lot of sensation in the front of my body, between my lower ribs and hip bones. Muscular sensation. The good kind.

Usually, after dropbacks with namaste hands, I’ll get the sensation in the lumbar region.

The overhead dropbacks are super-awkward feeling, but I imagine that’ll get better. And the weight of my extended arms ought to help crack open the chest and mid-back more effectively than the namaste hands.

One thing I learned from VBG is this: if you have a hunch about something in your practice, give it a go for a month to see if you’re really on to something.

So it’s overhead dropbacks from now ’til… aw, let’s make it April Fool’s Day. I can decide then if the experiment was fruitful.


20 Responses

  1. ahhh… nice illustration! My back is a little more bendy than yours, but I have the same exact chest opening situation (ie: hate it and it’s scary). When I do the overhead, arms stretched out drop backs, it feels like torture… but you’re so right about the opening and how you land on the floor with straighter arms. I’m inspired by this… will try it today (maybe I’ll join you in the month long experiment!)

  2. The awkward, more scary overhead torture seems like a better deal than crashing on my head ’cause my arms are bent.


    The other thing I think of when I look at the pictures is that Matthew Sweeney suggested I try going up on my tiptoes before I drop back. That would make it even MORE scary. Not sure if I’ll work that into the experiment…

  3. see, i am lazy, i kind of do neither of those things. i tend to kind of rest my hands on my belly, to keep them out of the way until i need them. hands overhead is WAY more work than i can handle. you guys are hardcore.

  4. Rock and roll! LOL!

    You can do your soft, relaxed set up because you are bendy and magical.

    I can’t straighten my arms without preparing ahead of time, so if I did it your way, I’d probably wake with a concussion and my hands still on my belly.

  5. Bendy and magical!! What a great description.

    I’m so focused on using my legs in drop backs that I’m not sure what’s going on with my arms. I don’t fear dropping on my head, though- the shoulders come through for me when I need protection from myself!

  6. Karen, your backbend has come so far! pretty soon you will realize how much harder it is to keep your arms overhead, lol. then again, you have much stronger abs than i do, so maybe it will never seem like as much work as it is to me.
    DI has set up a contraption at the shala with the same idea as your yoga cheese. but not as squishy. but next time you are here you will have to try it out 🙂

  7. oh yeah- and tip toes?? NO WAY!!!

  8. Sold ! The difference between the third picture in each set is pretty convincing.
    Yoga cheese, like that

  9. Interesting post! I have lots of opinions, let’s see..

    1) I prefer to analyse it less, because shoulder rotation IS confusing, and think instead of just keeping the elbows in… exact same action as in vira A, utkatasana, headstand, pincha, static UD. It’s everywhere!! 🙂 (To digress, do you ever get the feeling that all the poses are becoming more and more ‘the same’, in a nice way?) Basically ‘elbows in’ is all I need to think to get the shoulders to do the right thing.

    2) The second set does look better, your shoulders look nice and open, though you did splay out the elbows a little on landing.

    3) I personally prefer arms overhead, but I’m cautious about recommending it to people, because if the back isn’t open enough, it can ‘lever’ the bend into the lower back. For me, it ‘levers’ it into the mid/upper back and helps me to lift to the chest, and it seems like this is the case for you too. So go for it! Try taking them over in namaste though (harder).

    4) I love MS, but I don’t like the toes idea. Some people can only drop back by coming up on the toes first, and I think this shows a lack of connection somewhere, even though some advanced practitioners do it. Maybe it’s even anatomically impossible for some people to keep the heels down? I don’t know. It just seems pointless to me to do it if you don’t have to, since getting the heels in the right position and both sides grounded is (to me) SO fundamental to the whole experience.

    But of course you must experiment, you’re definitely on your backbending path. It’s fun to watch 🙂

  10. This only makes me like DI even more, Tova. FIrst it was the Iyengar ropes, and now a cheese! 🙂

    Susananda — I am hoping to get past the analysis! Yes, arms in poses are definitely more similar — virabhadrasana A, utkatasana, etc. The only places where I get confused about this is UD and dropbacks. Hopefully it will get automatic, now that I’ve thought it through a bit.

    The tiptoes thing seems interesting (I am always fascinated to see someone do it), but I’m disinclined to really pursue it as a goal. I tried it at MS’s behest, but it felt really awkward. If I were more athletic, perhaps I’d be a better yoga criminal…

  11. I think for some people, dropping back with their feet flat on the floor is an anatomical impossibility. I have a friend with an amazing practice and amazing backbends (he can do all the ones in Second and Third series without any problems). He can drop back, stand up and tic-toc But he drops back on his tiptoes. He told me he tried for years to “fix” this until he accepted that this is just the way it is for him.

  12. The thing is, I thought it might be an anatomical possibility, but there are several people who do this at the shala, and yet with very minimal assitance, a little support at the hips, they can go down and up with feet flat.. So it seems to me that it CAN’T be an anatomical impossibility, but rather a connection that isn’t being found?

    I’ve never tried it myself and I don’t fancy it, it seems very unstable and ungrounded, yuck. I’d feel like I might fall. I suppose I should give it a go just for fun.

  13. My theory (soon to be submitted to Naive Science Journal) is that the extra lift of tippy toes is useful for those who are short legged and long torsoed (and inflexible). I actually drew a diagram in my last meeting, trying to work this out in my head. Will post it later.

    And gosh, you guys, now that we’re discussing it, I’m feeling all curious to try it! LOL!

  14. Hmmmm my friend practices Ashtanga AND Iyengar yoga so I’m sure if it was just a lack of connection, the Iyengar teacher would have kicked it out of him sooner or later 😀

  15. attempts to drop back with arms overhead so far this week: zero.

    It sucks. It makes me feel like my weight it too unbalanced- maybe what Susan said- taking it more in the back. So now I’m doubly impressed that you can do it!

    The Naive Science Journal often accepts my submissions too.

  16. Liz, you’re probably just used to doing it namaste-style. Once you learn to do something one way, it’s just really awkward to try to do it a different way.

    Maybe if you tried it on tiptoes, you’d feel more stable? LOL! Kidding!

  17. Wow, am I the latecomer to this party!

    For the record:

    1) MS had me, in July 2007, come up on tiptoes. This got me a number of dropbacks both in Minneapolis and later in my backyard and later in Boston.

    2) ONE TIME, in Boston, I tiptoed a dropback and froze it halfway down. Hands extended back, on toes, arched, still. Then dropped and it was magnificent. A stunt I can’t seem to repeat.

    3) I find that I MUST extend arms back to get the midback to bend and get the “candycane” going on. It’s the onlly way I can get the ab stretch and the length and then drop back. And yes, I have fantastically strong abs. Also, I have to engage the legs, and keep them as straight as possible. My dropback self-talk is “Stand, reach; stand, reach; stand, reach.”

    4) My most recent dropback (posted last week) was feet flat. I did feet flat for all 3, although I’m certain that I could have landed closer to my feet (and thus with less head-to-mat) with toes up. I think of toes-up as a way to demand less stretch of the low abs and still do the drop, but that’s specific to me, and I wouldn’t characterize all on-toes droppers as doing it for that reason.

    Thanks for these posts and the pics, Karen; great stuff!

  18. PFFT, that should say “heels up” not “toes up.”

  19. Note to practitioners: If you want to do heels up, use stilettos. If you want to do TOES up, use Earth shoes.


    All joking aside, Patrick, if I raised up on tiptoes on the second-to-last picture, my hands would land closer to my feet. Exactly what you’re saying, yes?

  20. Exactly, ma’am.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: