The Ashtanga Practice Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 10

Inversions Towards Scorpion

55 min - Practice


Maria guides us in an innovative practice designed to develop stability and strength in Vrksasana (Handstand) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose) in preparation for Vrschikasana (Scorpion Pose). You will strong, stabile, and at your edge.
What You'll Need: No props needed

About This Video


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Welcome back. Today we're gonna be working on handstand. And scorpion. So the idea of today's sequence is that we'll be laying the foundation for how to bring that, the bandhas and how to bring that effort into an inversion. And we'll be pulling on some of the other themes with the back bend.

So getting that nice shoulder opening that we have in urdhva dhanurasana and some of the other poses we're covering. And working that into scorpion pose. So how this plays this into ashtanga is that in the end, after you've done your series, and it's usually after you're working on second or third series, four series. After drop backs and back bends, we start working on tick tocks. So tick tocks are coming up into hand stand, dropping over and then going back and forth.

I recommend that before you start just flinging yourself back and forth, you really develop the stability and strength to work on handstand and hold the handstand for a good amount of time. And so working on handstand and urdhva dhanurasana are really important components. We'll have those in the sequence, but then we'll also start working on finding the back bend that's necessary for tick tocks by working scorpion both on the forearms and on the hands at the wall. So we'll come up to standing and you're gonna need a block for this sequence. So go ahead and grab a block.

I recommend a foam block because it's a little lighter. The cork, if you don't have a foam block, the cork will work. However, it's just gonna be a lot heavier for you to hold up. So we're gonna start with urdhva hastasana. With the arms up overhead.

But we're gonna use the block. Let's start with the arms right in front of you. Plug your arm bones into your shoulders. Pull your shoulders back. And your chest up.

Now what tends to happen is, we take the arms up. Again, in order to avoid opening up the shoulders, we start to arch our back. We don't wanna do that. So starting here, press the roots of the fingers into the block. You're squeezing the block.

Now already, when you start to do that, it activates the inner part of the arms. And the pectorals. So the biceps and the pectorals. Which are gonna be really important as we start to invert. Pull the belly in, pull the front ribs in and down.

Squeezing the block. Now as you take the arms up overhead, we're gonna start to reach them up. But just be aware of when you start to either bend the elbows or you start to draw the shoulders up towards the ears and the arm starts to internally rotate. We wanna keep wrapping the outer upper arms down as we squeeze the block. And take the arms up.

Now, this is gonna be it for some of us. Others will be able to come up a little higher. But we don't wanna get so ambitious with raising the arms up that we start to lose the integrity of the pose and we start to work with the wrong muscle groups. Mainly, the trapezius starts to take over. And we really start to internally rotate the arms.

Don't get me wrong, the trapezius will work a little bit here. But we don't want it to become dominant. So wrap the outer upper arms around towards the front. Squeeze the block. Life the arms up.

Now, very often we're told to drop our shoulders down away from the ears. We don't wanna overdo that action. When we do that, we start to over square the shoulders and that's actually not healthy for our shoulders. So we still wanna reach and reach the upper arms, the arms up towards the ceiling. And find that length through the side bodies.

But we don't want to drop the shoulders away from the ears. So we reach up. We just continually wrap the outer upper arms around towards the face as we do so. So you should be feeling some work in the biceps. And the pectorals here.

You might notice that a certain part of your hands start to get light on the block. Try to press the entire palm of the hand into the block. The inner hand, outer hand, heel of the hand. Pull the belly in, lift up. And as the arms come up a little higher, just make sure that you're continually wrapping the other upper arms around towards the face.

And then start to sense that the shoulder blades press into the chest. Chest lifts up. Front ribs reach down. So you might almost start to feel this as though it were a back bend with the shoulder blades plugging into the chest. Okay.

And then let's release the block. And we'll set it to the side. And we'll begin with surya namaskar A. Bringing the feet together, let's take the hands to prayer position at the heart. Just start focusing on your breath.

In and out through the nose. Rooting down through the entire foot. On each side. Big toe mound, baby toe mound, center of the heel. Lifting the knee caps up the thighs as you lengthen the tail bone.

Pulling the front ribs in and down. And then letting the breath expand into the entire torso. The rib cage expands in every direction. And then as you press down through the feet, you equally lift up through the crown of the head. And we'll lift the gaze, release the arms down alongside the body.

Inhale reach the arms up overhead. Exhale hinge at the hips and fold. Forward. Inhale. Look up and lengthen.

Either keeping the hands flat coming to finger tips. Or hands to shins. Exhale, setting the hands, stepping back. Shift forward and lower down. First one you can come all the way to the floor, roll the shoulders back.

Press the tops of the feet, press the hands. Either come up into a cobra. Or option to come all the way to up dog. And then exhale. Back to downward facing dog.

Holding in downward facing dog for five breaths. If it's your first downward facing dog, maybe you need to keep the knees a little bent while we're warming up the backs of the legs. If you can straighten them, start to reach the heels to the floor, press the tops of the thighs back. Even here, finding that same effort we had with the block where you slightly just wrap the outer upper arms around towards your face. And simultaneously push the floor away from you to stretch the arms out of the waist.

And to the exhale, look forward. And we'll walk the feet to the hands. Inhale look up and lengthen. Exhale and fold. Inhale come all the way to the top.

Exhale return to samastitihi. Inhale arms reach. Exhale fold. Inhale look up and lengthen. Exhale step or jump to chaturanga.

Inhale upward facing dog. Exhale back downward facing dog. And holding and breathing in down dog. And with your exhale, look forward. And step or jump.

Inhale look up and lengthen. Exhale and fold. Inhale all the way up. Exhale samastitihi. Again, inhale.

Exhale fold. Inhale lengthen. Exhale chaturanga. Inhale up dog. Exhale downward dog.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five looking forward, exhale.

Inhale lengthen. Exhale fold. And inhale all the way up to the top. Exhale samastitihi. Surya namaskar B.

Bend the knees, sit the hips back, inhale. Utkatasana. And exhale forward fold. Inhale look up, lengthen. And exhale to chaturanga.

Inhale upward facing dog. Exhale downward facing dog. Right foot forward, left heel down. Inhale virabhadrasana one. Exhale chaturanga.

Inhale upward facing dog. Exhale downward facing dog. Left foot forward, right heel down. Inhale virabhadrasana one. Exhale chaturanga.

Inhale upward dog. Exhale downward facing dog. One. Two. Three.

Four. And five looking forward. Stepping or jumping. Inhale lengthen. Exhale fold.

Bend your knees sit the hips back, inhale utkatasana. And exhale samastitihi. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.

Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.

Exhale. One. Two. Three. Four.

Five. Inhale. Exhale. Bend your knees. Inhale.

And exhale. Last one. Exhale folding forward. Inhale lengthening. Exhale to chaturanga.

Inhale to upward facing dog. Exhale downward dog. Right foot forward. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. Left foot forward. Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale. One. Two. Three.

Four. Five. Looking forward. Inhale. Exhale.

Bend the knees. Inhale. Exhale samastitihi. Padangusthasana. We'll take the hands to the hips, step or jump the feet hip distance apart.

Inhale lift the chest up. Tip the head back, gaze down the edge of the nose. And exhale hinge at the hips and fold forward. Reach down, hook your big toes with middle and index finger. Inhale roll the shoulders down the back.

Lift the chest forward. Lengthen, look up. And then exhale fold. Leaning forward as you fold. And we'll hold and breath here.

With each inhalation, start to lean a little more into the roots of the toes. Or just in front of the heels. And with each exhalation, contract a little. To pull yourself in deeper. If you really work the bandhas here, hollowing out between the hip bones.

The abdominal cavity. And get a sense of going deeper with the breath. So particularly with the exhalation. Inhalation finding a little more length through the crown of the head. Exhalation, folding in a little deeper.

And slightly lifting the knee caps up the thighs. And then with inhalation, we'll look up and lengthen again. Exhale padahastasana, taking the hands underneath the feet. You can do this one at a time. Inhale again.

Relengthening. And exhale folding, reaching the elbows out to the sides. Using your arms to pull yourself in deeper. But more than the arms, using the bandhas. Particularly with the exhalation.

Hollowing out through the abdominals. Even bringing the front ribs into the body. Leaning slightly forward and inhaling to lengthen. Exhale contracting and folding deeper. Inhale looking up and lengthening.

Exhale release the hands, take them back to the waist. And inhale come all the way up to the top. And exhale feet together, hands to prayer position. Utthita hasta padangusthasana. We're gonna do this just to the front.

So a couple ways to come into this. One is just reach the arm up. Transfer the weight to the left foot. Just start to pull the right thigh bone into the hip socket and then we lift the leg up to meet the hand. And we drop the shoulder down the back.

We can hold here. Another option is just to bend the knee, grab a hold of the toe, pull the shoulder back again. So the shoulder's over top of the hip. Straighten your left leg completely. And then the right leg as much as it'll go.

And it may be here. That's fine. Then pull the left ribs in. Towards midline. And we'll straighten the right leg.

Holding for five breaths. Starting to pull the outer edge of the right foot back, inner edge forward. And finding that length through the crown of the head and out through your left foot. And then release. Point the toe and hold.

And then we'll release that side. And we'll do the same thing on the other side. So we'll take the weight to the right foot. Pull the left thigh bone into the hip socket. Either straighten the left arm up, kick the leg up.

Or our other option. Bend the left knee, grab a hold of the left big toe. And start to straighten the leg out in front of you. Continually pull the left shoulder back. Straighten the right leg.

And if the right ribs start to pull out. Just guide them back in. Towards midline. One. Two.

Right leg straight. Three. Four. Five and then keeping the leg up bringing the hand to the waist and holding. One.

Two. Three. Four. And five, release. Okay.

And then we're gonna go over to the wall. And we're gonna do the same thing but reclined. So come down to the floor. Supta padangusthasana. We'll take this with the knee pretty bent at the wall.

And the foot flat against the wall. So I mean really bent. As we lay back, you'll see that the leg will go straighter. And if you're too far away, then you're not gonna be able to press into the wall the way that we really need to. And from there we're gonna grab a hold of our right big toe.

Now right here, see if you can tuck the tail bone under and get your sitting bones to start pointing towards the wall. So we're really really tucking under here. We're gonna flex, press the left foot into the wall. Start to straighten the right leg. If it doesn't go all the way straight, that's okay.

Wrap the outer right hip around and the right sitting bone towards the inner left thigh. And then front there we're gonna start to lower down towards the floor. We don't have to come all the way down to the floor. So this is one of those places where we need to be really honest with ourself and find that place where we just collapse and fall to the floor. And right before that point, we wanna pause and hold.

So we're gonna stay here. Press into the left foot and find that place where you start to flatten out in your back. So this is more about finding our core. And activating it than it is about stretching the hamstring. And then you can start to go all the way down.

And then press into the wall. And you're gonna come up. As though you were coming up one vertebrae at a time. So it's really about finding that hollowing c-curve. Good.

And then we'll do that on the other side. So coming a little closer to the wall than you think. And you could see that I was starting to slide away from the wall on that last one. So you may have to adjust yourself. Midway through the practice.

So taking the left leg straight. Right hand to your right leg. Again pulling the left sitting bone towards midline. Hollowing out. Holding the belly on.

Pressing the right foot into the wall. And really tucking under through the tailbone as you lower. And trying to come down as slow as you can. And to come up as slow as you can. Finding all those opportunities to build that strength.

Containment through the core. And that might be actually more in the hip flexor than it is the abdominal wall. Which is great. And then we'll release that. So while we're here, you'll just straighten your legs.

And pretty much measure where your hands are gonna be. We're gonna go into an L shape handstand. So if your hips are here, just set your hands like you're in dandasana. And then we're gonna place our hands there. Turn around.

Curl your toes under. And we'll bring the shoulders over over the wrists. And we'll try and come up. You may have to come down and readjust your hands once you come up. You'll see.

So we bring one foot up the wall. And this can be a scary place for... Especially if you're not used to inverting. So... Lift your hips up.

And you'll bring your hips, your feet about hip height. And we'll bring the shoulders over the wrist. I'm a little further away from the wall than I need to be. So I'm gonna inch my hands back another inch. And then come up again.

And then we'll let the head dangle. And here the tendency might be to collapse again through the middle. Wrap the outer upper arms around towards your face. And pull your belly in, your ribs in. And you can either stay there in the L shape which is a great place to build strength.

Or raise one leg at a time. Towards the ceiling. And as you raise that leg to the ceiling, pull the front ribs in. And continually pull the right thigh bone into the hip. And reach the left leg straight.

And then we'll release that. And come down for a break. So that's one of the better ways to get used to coming into handstand. For one, it helps us work out of that pattern of arching the spine. And losing the containment in the ribs.

But it's also nice because you can come right from downward facing dog and then just start walking the feet up the wall. As opposed to having to kick up to the ceiling which can be a little more frightening. So now we're gonna do a couple stretches to open up the shoulders for pincha mayurasana. Pincha mayurasana, for some people, it's actually more difficult than handstands. And the reason is that we're so used to this pattern.

The shoulders up to the ears. So then when we set up for pincha mayurasana, it's really hard to keep the forearms parallel. And what ends up happening is this. The elbows splay out and the hands come together. So we're gonna need our blocks again.

For me, I always had pretty open shoulders. So the flexibility to keep this was there. But what wasn't there was the strength to keep my elbows in. So I had to develop more strength in the pectorals to keep my elbows squeezing in. Other people, students I've had or friends I've had that have practiced, it was more the flexibility.

They didn't have the range of motion to come up beyond this. So you have two little stretches for pincha mayurasana which you can integrate into your practices. The first one is for the flexibility. So you just come onto our stomach. Facing the wall.

And you're gonna need a block. And you just take your thumbs like the L shape. And we bring the forearms to the wall. And you can either do it this way or you can just take your palms into the block. And then you just start to fold down into it.

And here you just press the elbows towards the wall. And the wrists towards the wall. And then you can start to inch your hips back. As it opens up. And some people will feel nothing here.

For others, this will be a lot of work. I'm gonna set the block down. And demonstrate the other option. So this can be done on your knees. We'll just bring the hands about eye level.

It's almost like a puppy dog at the wall. Which is a stretch for downward dog. But do it with the thumbs about eye level. Elbows squeezing in. So your elbow should be about the height of your shoulders or a couple inches higher.

Elbows squeeze in. Inner hands press down. Find a sense that you're dragging the hands down the wall which starts to activate all the muscles here in the upper back. And then as you hold those efforts, elbows in, hands squeezing, inner hand pressing the wall, and then the hands dragging down the wall. Then you can start to walk the knees back.

Reach the chest to the wall and then even start to fold into it. Hinging at the hips. So you're still finding that stretch. But you're also activating all the muscles that are gonna support and hold the shape. And you just go to the place where you can both hold the shape and feel a little opening in the upper back or shoulders.

And again, careful not to completely splay into it. But keep the front ribs pulled in, the belly's pulled in. So depending on how your body is structured, one of those may be more valuable than the other. And you'll integrate either one. And from there we'll work on pincha mayurasana.

So... Feather in a peacock. Feather the peacock. So we'll take our hands to the block. And again, we're gonna actually bring the palms flat on the floor.

And use the block there just so that we're holding the hands, shoulder distance apart. And you may need to strap your elbows so that they don't splay out as well. But at least use the block for now. And then we'll set the elbows down. And just bring the forearm flesh slightly inside of the forearm bone.

And if you're, if you have really broad shoulders, a block is probably gonna be too narrow. So you can take a block and a half, and another block next to it. Just to open up that base. And from there we'll curl the toes under. Lift the hips up.

Coming to a downward facing dog shape. And this is initially gonna stretch out the shoulders when we press back towards more of a downward dog shape. You can just let the head and neck relax. And pull the front ribs in, belly in. And then we're gonna start to bring the shoulders forward over the elbows.

Look down. At the floor. And then walk the feet in. So you get used to supporting the weight of the body. With the arms.

Few more breaths. Press the inner wrists to the floor. And keep resisting the upper arms back. And then we'll go ahead and release. Bring your knees to the floor.

And just rest in child's pose for a moment. And then we'll do that again. This time, we're gonna add an opportunity to raise one leg at a time towards the ceiling. So finding your foundation. Strong foundation.

Inner hand, inner wrist pressing the floor. Upper arms pressing back. Lift up. We'll walk the feet in. Keeping the shoulders over the elbows.

Look down. And then raise one leg to the ceiling. Now, as you raise that leg up, you don't wanna open the hip up with it. Keep dropping the hip towards the floor. Just as we did in utthita hasta padangusthasana.

And lift the inner, spin the inner thigh in. And reach. And then release it down, if you need to rest, you can take one. And then when you're ready, we'll come up again. The second side.

So lifting the left leg up. Again, not letting the hip open up. Keeping the inner thighs spinning in. Leaning forward and lifting up. Press the inner hand down.

Pull the front ribs in. And then we'll release. And take a break. So when we're coming up into pincha mayurasana, at a certain point, it's not really a kicking up. It's really just a reaching up.

So you bring your shoulders into position. Look down. And you just keep reaching, reaching, reaching. Until the other leg floats up off the floor. And it's that same action that we have in hand to big toe pose from the beginning.

So if you need the block still, you can continue to use the block. I'm actually gonna put it off to the side for now. And then we're gonna take, urdhva dhanurasana with the intention of opening up the spine. So this isn't per se like a tutorial on urdhva dhanurasana. We're just doing it to open up the spine and shoulders for back bends.

So that we can work into scorpion in a few minutes. So set your feet flat on the floor. Lie down on your backs. We'll set the hands up by the ears, finger tips pointing towards the shoulders. Feet naturally on the floor.

Not turned out too much, not turned in too much. Pull the shoulders down the back, lift the chest up. Press down into your feet. Start to reach the knees forward. Lift the hips up.

Press the hands, come up to your head. You may choose to stay here. Specially considering we didn't do a lot to open up for back bends. Or you'll start to lift up to straightening the arms. Knees squeezing forward and slightly in.

Hips lifting up to the ceiling. And we'll hold. And you have the option to come all the way down to the floor for a rest. Or just lower the head. And walk the hands in.

If you came down to the floor, set up again. And we'll inhale come up. And hold again. And then we'll walk the hands in. Or if you need to come down and rest, you'll come down and rest.

And then coming down to the floor. And resting a moment. And we'll roll over to our side. And come up. So next we'll be going into vrschikasana.

Or scorpion. It can be done on the forearms. Which used to be a part of second series. Although it's not anymore. Or it can be done on the hands.

Which is a part of tick tocks. Let's start with forearms since we were just working on that. So you want about eight inches. Six to eight inches away from the wall. And forearms more or less parallel.

Inner hands pressing down. And if you can work at the same way where you just reach up to the wall, great. If you need to give a little kick to get yourself up, that's okay. You just really wanna make sure that you have enough strength in your arms so that you don't collapse down to the floor. So that effort is mostly I'm pressing the hand and pulling the upper arm back.

From here, lifting up. Walking your toes in a bit. Reaching one leg up. If you need to kick a little, just bend the knee, reach the right leg straight. Up to the ceiling.

And then to the wall. Then from there, just bring both feet to the wall, start to drop the chest down to the floor. And look towards the wall. Continue to press your upper arms back. Inner hands down.

And reach the chest forward to the wall. You may stay there. Or... Start to bend one leg. And then maybe reach back up.

And if you wanna go right into the second side, go ahead. And then coming down when you need a break. And resting. And then coming up. And the same thing on handstand.

So you are gonna most likely need to adjust your hands closer, further away from the wall. And both of those, for both the forearm balance and handstand. Depending on how much your upper back can move. And then handstand. We'll be kicking up into it here.

So we set the shoulders up. You can come back from downward facing dog. Take one leg forward. And then kick up from here. Or I actually prefer to set my shoulders in place.

Little bit more challenging. But it also keeps everything where it needs to be. And then from here, just kick up. And bring the feet to the wall. Then we start to slide the feet down.

But notice we're doing that by reaching the chest to the floor and start to look towards the wall. And you'll use your fingers here to keep your balanced. But continue to press the inner hands. Look up. And then maybe start to slide one foot at a time.

And then you can take that leg out. And do the other side. And then coming down. And resting in child's pose for a moment. And then coming up to seated.

And we'll take paschimottanasana. So just straighten the legs out in front of you. Bring the hands next to your hips. And then start to walk them forward. Inhale, lengthen.

And just taking a moment to neutralize the spine and ease your way into the counter pose. And then we'll start counting for 10 breaths. One. Two. Three.

Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight.

Nine. And 10. And inhale come up. Exhale and we'll lie down for shavasana. Which is straightening out the legs.

Coming down onto your back. Taking any adjustments needed. Get the shoulder blades on the floor. Palms are open to the ceiling. And the legs are turned out.

And just relaxing. First few moments in shavasana just scanning the entire body, looking for any places that are holding onto tension. Telling them to relax. Letting go. And then just quieting the mind.

The mind is really busy, really active. Maybe a mantra will help. So at least you're directing it to focus on a certain word. Or you can direct it to focus on the breath. Or the heartbeat.

If you can drift right into a meditative state, then you'll go there. So if you have the extra time to stay in shavasana, then stay exactly as you are. Otherwise you'll start to breathe a little deeper. Bring small movements into fingers and toes. If you'd like, you can reach your arms up overhead.

Take a deep breath in and reach in both directions. And then we'll bend the knees and roll over to the right side resting there. Before coming up to seated. And then when you're ready, you'll press yourself up to seated. We'll cross the legs.

And we'll bring the hands to prayer position at the heart. Gently bowing. In gratitude. And thank you all. Namaste.


Kate M
1 person likes this.
Thank you again, Maria, for a compassionate and rational approach to these challenging postures. Namaste.
Kate M
2 people like this.
OMG two years since I was here last?? Where does time go... Today, on the cusp of my 60th birthday (again: where DOES the time go??) I really appreciated your calm pacing, and your calm and reassuring voice, Maria. Lovely practice. Hari Om.
Maria Villella
Happy Birthday 🎈 I hear you - where does time go? ❤️🙏

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