Peanut butter and jelly are long considered to be two good things that just go really darn well together.Â Two other things that have a love affair? Stability and freedom.Â Huh? Don’t those sound more like a contradiction?
Actually, no. Thousands of years ago, Master Patanjali formed a sentence in the Yoga Sutras that was to go down in yoga history: Sthira Sukha Asanam. While this is only a basic translation, he defines and encourages the seats, or postures (asanas), of yoga practice to be both steady and comfortable. While these principles apply to every asana (and I daresay, could be applied to every situation of life, as well) they most definitely show up to the party that is balancing in Side Plank and soaring one foot expressively up to the sky.
Keep these musings of Sthira and Sukha in mind and play with incorporating both elements into your exploration of Vashistasana B:
STHIRA: Firmness, purpose, will, alert attention, dedication
SUKHA: Ease, softness, malleability, “good space”
P.S. – Fun fact! Somewhere along the way I heard that this pose is named after a great student of yoga, Sage Vashishta, who fathered 100 children! I think it’s a fact anyway…
Ground into your bottom palm fully. Press the knuckle mounds down, especially the index finger, and spread your fingers like rays of sunshine. As you distribute the weight throughout your whole hand, the center of your palm will slightly lift away from the floor creating Hasta Bandha (Hand Lock).
Suck the shoulder of your standing arm away from your ear to create a “plugged in” feeling between your upper arm bone (humerus) and your shoulder socket. Externally rotate the bottom arm by turning the triceps muscles backward toward your legs, just like you do in Downward Dog. Feel this activate your strong Latissimus Dorsi muscles that run like a wide shield over the side of your ribcage and into your back.
Get familiar with work of the pelvis in traditional Side Plank with both feet stacked together. Curl your tailbone down toward your heels and tilt your frontal hip points toward your heart. These two actions will help you stay balanced through your entire body by engaging Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock, or my favorite definition, “Flying Upward Lock”).
It is possible to balance in this pose on the “knife edge” or pinkie toe edge of your standing foot. I find more expansive lift available if I ground my standing foot down as much as possible. To do this, shorten your stride just a few inches and angle your foot slightly so your toes point mildly more toward your face. Then extend your inner foot down, contracting the outer ankle, and over time, connecting the sole of the foot solidly to the floor by pushing the big toe ball mound downward.
Modify the bind of the top leg by bending the knee and placing palm to knee cap. Or, use your first two fingers and hook around the inside of the big toe like a crab claw. Press your big toe into your finger bind, and simultaneously pull your finger bind back against your big toe.
Externally rotate the top leg so that as your leg reaches up, your toes point in the direction of your face, not sideways. Flex your quadriceps muscles to facilitate more ease in the opening of the hamstrings and adductors.
Ground down into Sthira with the limbs connected to the earth and reach enthusiastically upward into Sukha with the top foot. Endeavor to keep the lifted arm also plugged into socket, so both shoulder blades are lengthening away from the neck.
Look down or sideways for the most grounded balance connection. Look slowly upwards to take the experience of soaring all the way into your senses.
And last, but never, ever least, maintain a steady, rhythmic Ujjayi breath.
Written by Hanna Riley Bala Vinyasa Yoga Naples Florida