The Ashtanga Practice Artwork
Season 4 - Episode 10

Dharana: Standing Postures

45 min - Practice


David shares the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana, or mind control. With attention towards the interior limbs, David, with the help of Shelley, guides us in a practice that helps to hone our concentration and focus. We move through Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations) and standing postures, adding Uttitha Hasta Pandangustasana (Hand to Big Toe Pose) and Ardha Baddha Padmottonasana (Half Bound Lotus Standing Foward Fold). We close our seated postures with Purvottonasana (Eastern Stretch) before moving into the "finishing postures"—Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and Sirsasana (Headstand).
What You'll Need: Mat, Block (2)


Read Full Transcript

(waves rushing) Greetings, welcome to session six, so, we're continuing or kind of stepping through the primary series. Going a little bit further with each session and so today we'll continue with a few more standing postures, adding a seated asana, and the limb of the day is number six. And with limb six and seven and eight, you get to what we call the interior limbs. Okay, so that the limbs, they go from a kind of outer to an inner in the steps. And so we call, I'm calling that limb, in honor of my teacher who talked about it, he called it mind control.

Okay, so yoga gives mind control. And, so, we're dealing with the kind of, with concentration and focus. And so that in the outer limbs, you're learning how to withdraw your attention, confine it inside the body. With the sixth limb, the mind is almost like its own sense organ, so you want to learn to track the mind, and to create focus, and that, the ability to kind of, go from a distracted state to a concentrated state, that is power. And that's why my teacher was saying that yoga is mind control.

So it's that ability to focus. And what comes from that, which is, it's so simple actually, just arriving in the present moment inside this body right now. And what power that holds. Okay? So, we'll get started here, and we're gonna bring Shelly on for a little helper, and here we go.

Welcome Shelly, thank you for being here. Samastitihi. So you're at the front of the mat with the feet together. Enjoy that equal grounded, also means complete stance. So interiorize your senses.

Connect with the cycle of the breath. Stay very calm, yet, vigorous limbs, vigorous center. And here we go. Inhale, reach the arms up, join the palms together overhead, come to first position, exhale, fold forward, inhale lift the chest, head, get ready, crouch and spring. Stop at your arrival point in chaturanga dandasana, inhale, straighten the arms, curve the spine into the body, exhale, pull the hips back smoothly.

So we're working to connect your movements and your breathing, clearly, as you work. So then you get rhythmic movements. Stamp the hands down, stamp the feet down. Press the thigh bones back. Keep the palate broad and empty, and listen to the pleasant sound of the breath.

Long steady smooth, and get ready, crouch, and spring. Lift up the chest as you fill up the lungs, exhale forward, keep the legs stiff as you fold, come to the destination, then inhale, sweep the arms up, smoothly fill up the lungs, exhale, return to samastitihi, to zero. And inhale, reach. Exhale, forward. Stopping for the brief moment in each position.

Third position, lift the head and chest, stiffen the legs, get ready, jump, fourth position. Inhale, curve the spine as you look up and over, exhale, swing the hips back smoothly, and enjoy sixth position. So you're working with the two main skeletal lines in this position, the leg line from the hip down to the feet and then the glorious axis from the pelvic floor down through the torso, arms, hands, into the ground. Integrate the lines as you use mind power to contemplate those lines and animate them. Here we go, crouch, and spring.

Lift up the chest, look up between the eyebrows and stop. And exhale, fold with the sound of the out breath, reach out to the sides, brilliantly, as you come up. Connecting the movement with the breath, empty the lungs, return to the zero position. We'll go to surya namaskar B. Bend the knees, reach up, inhale.

Exhale, straighten and fold, with a move, stop the body in position. Inhale, third position, lift up the chest high and stop. Crouch, spring, four limbed staff. Inhale, straighten the arms and legs, curve the spine, exhale pull the hips back, angle the left heel in, step the right foot between the hands, come up, lunging, reach the arms overhead, exhale, plant the hands, step back and lower. Inhale, wide open chest, exhale pull back, angle the right, step the left.

Lunge and reach as you fill up the lungs. Exhale, keep forward as you stamp the hands, step back and lower, inhale smoothly and come to the peak of the position, exhale, rhythmically swing the hips back. And enjoy each resting place. So steady, easy sound, long and steady, smooth and even. And that sound is showing you how to create your shape as you stay.

Steady the senses. So, being able to use all of these actions to create your posture is mind control. Crouch, and spring. Lift up the chest high. Stiffen the legs and exhale, fold.

Bend the knees, reach up brilliantly and stop. Exhale to the zero position, all of a sudden, arrival. And again, inhale, bend the knees and reach up. Exhale, straighten and fold. Inhale, lift the chest and head, get ready, crouch and spring.

Inhale. So go with the uptempo rhythm, swing the hips back, step the right leg, go into a lunge as you reach the arms up overhead. Exhale, plant the hands, step back and lower. Inhale, curving spine, exhale, pull the hips back, step the left leg. Lunge, hips towards square as you reach.

Come down, stamp the hands, step back. Come to your personal destination and stop. Inhale, straight arms and legs, point the toes, exhale, pull back smoothly. Connecting movement with breath, with clarity. Keep the brain passive, the senses receptive.

Interiorize the sound of the breath. Stay immediately awake inside the body. So you focus the mind. Along the axis, from the pelvic floor through the broad, deep palate. And crouch.

Spring. Lift up the chest as you stamp the feet down, exhale, bend the knees, reach the arms up, and stop here. Scan down the body. Go into a deep squat as you lift the arms up. And return to samastitihi with a smooth exhalation.

Standing postures, hands to waist. Inhale and separate the feet with a hop, breathe in, look up, exhale halfway down, catch your toes, straighten the arms, pull on the toes as you lift the chest and head, exhale forward, shift your weight forward, so your create your position directly over your foot foundation. Keeping a good pull with your fingers on your toes but broad across your upper back and neck. Free. Palate free.

Breathing, free. Inhale, straighten the arms, shift your weight forward again then stay right there as you take your hands under your feet and again, breathe and look up, exhale, stay forward, as you create a fold. Very calm. Relax the brain. Steady the senses.

Interiorize the mind. Enjoy the life force in the limbs. Inhale, straighten the arms, project the spine forward away from the straight legs, stay right there as you empty the lungs with a flush, hands to waist. And inhale, come up. Hop the feet together, return to zero.

And crouch, spring, jump out to the right. Utthita trikonasana. Set up your position and stop, then, tip the pelvis to the right, reach out through the right side, come down, figure out where you want your right arm, along the shin, the ankle, catching the toe, beside the leg. Elongate the spine. From the pelvic floor all the way through the crown of the head and turn the torso any bit to look up past the thumb.

And inhale, sweep the body up, set up the second side and stop momentarily. Enjoy that setup with poise, and then tip the pelvis to the left, reach out to the left, come down. And enjoy, and if you are bending your knees, then you're slowly working to straighten them as you stay. Clarifying the leg lines, and the horizontal spinal line. The vertical arm reach of the top arm.

Steady gaze, steady breathing. Inhale, come up. Work with the revolving triangle. So come to the setup position and stop. So you've got the back leg angled in 45 degrees, look down the body, suck the ribs in, lift the navel, lift the kneecap quadricep, get ready.

And exhale, come down. Place the hand, either inside the foot, or to the outside, or even on the leg. So the feet are planted, the legs are scissoring, spine is long, top arm is reaching. Inhale, come up, with a smooth move, and stop at the setup position. So the hips are square, the navel is lifted, scan down your body, draw the lower ribs in and lift the chest, reach up through the arms, get ready, and exhale forward.

So keep your balance. As you make a move to come into position. Plant the feet as evenly as possible, scissor the legs together. Long horizontal line from pelvic floor through crown of head. Reach up through top arm.

Inhale, come up, decisively. Crouch, and spring, return to the zero position. Within an instantaneous animation of the central line. Here we go, utthita parsvakonasana, the extended side angle pose. Crouch and spring.

Get a wide stance, angle the right leg out 90, the left foot in slightly. Come into warrior two with a lunge. Then reach through the right side, come down, place the right hand right beside the right foot, and push the right outer leg against the right arm. Swing the left arm on the diagonal up and away over the ear. Ground the back leg.

Enjoy easy smooth breathing. Inhale, come up to warrior two, then straighten and change sides. Stop in your setup, so the whole body galvanizes into readiness, and then lunge into warrior two. Reach out through the left side waist, take the left hand down beside the left foot, swing that left knee to meet the left arm and brace the left arm against that. So enjoy that connection between the leg and front arm, and then reach the right arm over on the diagonal.

So that arms and legs, they gesture as you express the position during your stay. And, inhale, back to warrior two, and straighten the left leg, alright, the revolving side angle. So, angle the back leg in 45 degrees, square the hips. And you're going to free the back heel, windmill the arms and then lunge into revolving warrior two. So keep an upright torso as you start to enter the position.

Then take the left arm around the outer right leg and put the fingers down. Reach the right arm over the ear with a move, reaching through the back leg, reaching through the top arm, and spinning on the axis. Enjoying the lunge thoroughly. And inhale, come up. Set up the second side.

So angle the back leg in 45 degrees, free the heel, square the hips, windmill the arms, and lunge into revolving warrior two. Firm the back thigh, firm the front thigh. And here we go, put the right arm to the outer left knee, bring that hand down to the floor and swing the left arm over the ear. So you're reaching through the left arm away and reaching through the right leg away as you turn. And continue to lunge as you swing the left knee to the left.

Inhale, come up. Crouch, and spring to samastitihi. And again, crouch, and spring out to the right, take the hands to the waist with the feet parallel, get a wide stance, breathe in, look up, so you're doing wide leg forward bend, exhale halfway forward. Straight arms to the floor in front of you. Palms pressing down, and lift the chest, ground the thighs, breathe in.

Exhale forward. So if possible, the head comes to the ground between the feet. You've got five points of contact, the two feet, two hands, and the head, and each one is enjoying the earth, communing with the ground, and creating a strong connection. The breathing is free. So if the head doesn't come all the way down, no problem.

You can have it a little bit up. And you have four points of contact. Inhale, walk the hands forward, come halfway up and stop. Empty the lungs at this position, take the hands to the waist, and then inhale, come up. Crouch, and spring to the front.

Land in the zero position. Okay here we go, crouch and spring, we'll take parsvottanasana. So it's like the revolving triangle setup. Angle the right leg out 90, the left foot in 45 degrees, square the hips, then swing the arms behind you to join the palms together behind your back or clasp the elbows. Breathe in, look up, and with a move, come forward decisively.

And if you're bending the knees, then gently gently working them straight, slowly, with planted feet, centering your mind right inside the foundation of the posture, and considering your spinal position in relation to the legs and the earth. So you're elongating the spine and dropping. Inhale, come up. Change sides, come to the setup position, end point and stop. So you've angled the back leg, the right leg, in 45 degrees, square the hips, lift the navel, chest, and then with a move, decisive, come forward.

So you're deepening the left groin as you elongate the spine and release down towards your front leg. Enjoy that diceyness. Because you don't have your arms there to help you, turn that instability into more stability, with your awareness and your asana actions. Inhale, come up with a move, release the arms, crouch, and spring to samastitihi. Alright, so there you have it, we're flowed up to that point.

And thank you Shelly. So, we'll pick it up from there. So now, we go into, we meet a formidable asana. Wow, this one's tough, okay. Utthita hasta padangusthasana, so the extended hand to big toe posture.

So you're in samastitihi, and, bend your knee, lift up your thigh. And reach down through the arms. Okay, and then, you're going to catch ahold of your foot on the side. Or, you can catch the big toe. Catching from the side is a little bit easier.

And then, here we go, you kick the right leg out. So it's like with a move, it goes out, and keep your upright position. So if you can't do that, you could catch your shin. And work on it. Or, you could keep the leg slightly bent, but if it's bent, it's going towards straight, against that resistance.

Okay, and stay centered over your left foot, your left leg. And your chest open. So from the right thigh all the way through the foot you're reaching away, and pulling back against that. So that interaction between your limbs, stabilizes the position. Left hand to waist and here we go, then the next move is to swing it, dextrously, to the side, so you gotta take a chance.

And here we go, swing, out to the right. And if that destabilizes your position, well and good. Okay, so it's better than this. Come down for a sec. So watch, so there's a temptation to go, okay, I've gotta take it out to the right so, here we go, oh, ah, right? (laughs) So you, instead you're, getting ready and taking a chance.

Swing. And with practice you can get certainty there. Okay, so let's try that. Here we go. So you catch the outer foot, you catch your shin, or you catch the big toe, and then, with a move, swing the leg into the side plane and stop.

And you can see, my teacher he says, why are you dancing? (laughing) and then swing back to the center. And pause. Then, the next move. This is a multi-part.

Keep the leg up, take back the arm, take the hand to the waist, and breathe. And, come down. Second side. So first bend the knee, and enjoy that vertical line. Head, torso, pelvis, right leg, lift up the left leg, and enjoy.

Then either catch the side of the foot or the big toe with the two fingers, or the shin. And, with a move, kick the leg straight. And consider all your lines. So you've got the central line, from the head through the torso through the right leg, you've got the left leg line, the left arm line, so you're kicking away through the left, and pulling back with the left hand. And then with a move, swing the leg to the side.

And try it again, swing it back to center. Swing to the side. And back to center, and one more time. Swing it, take a chance. And you'll develop skill and balance.

So you're looking to the opposite side, to the right, and then again, make a move, swing back to the front. Re-establish your upright position, kicking out through the left leg, pulling back with the left arm, lifting the chest, and release. Keep the left leg up. Keep the chest open. And lift up the body through the crown of the head.

And return to samastitihi. Alright. Thankful that there isn't three legs. Okay so the next one, is also a hard one. It's called ardha baddha padmottanasana, so that's the half bound lotus intense forward stretch.

Okay, so, this is the very first time the half lotus positions are introduced. And, so you have to be careful with your knees, as you're working on positions like this. So, and you want to do it with a move, okay, so lift the right leg up, and then, put it out on the diagonal. Okay, and then, straighten it, almost like a frog, and externally rotate the leg, and then flip, flip that foot towards your left thigh. Flip, and flip it out, flip.

It's a challenge. Try it on the other side, so you've got, the left leg goes out on the diagonal, you externally rotate that femur in the hip socket and lift up the heel, and then flip, no hands, flip, flip, woah. Alright. Then back to the other side, and it's really right at the end that the hand helps, so you flip that and then catch ahold of the foot and lift it up towards the navel to get the half lotus position. Okay, so if that is not happening, you can do the tree.

So you can flip that right foot right to the inner leg. And make a nice position, just like this. And if you're using the tree, take it out again, and then flip the right leg then right at the end you can use your right hand to hoist it all the way up, and then you push the right foot against the left thigh, and resist to create a powerful stance. Okay, so you can use options, one is tree, one is half lotus without a bind and without a forward bend, so just staying upright. Or, you can go forward, look at me, so you can go forward with both hands, and come down into your position.

Okay. And sometimes, if you come forward with both hands and you couldn't bind the lotus when you were standing, you can sneak it around afterwards, and get the position. Okay, or, you can bind it up. Okay, so here we go, you'll choose your option. So you're gonna do tree, or half lotus, you can bind the lotus or not.

I've got the right leg in half lotus, I've bound that lotus with my right arm, and then I make a forward bend move, and come into my position. So the weight is centered over that left foot. And you can test that out by clearing, so you can take your left arm off the ground and balance. And test it out. Keep your weight forward.

Okay, then halfway up. Lengthen the spine, then exhale, and come up with the inhalation, decisively, balance, and release with a move. Left side. So you're either taking tree, or you've got the half lotus without the bind, or you're binding. Then, breathe in, and exhale forward.

So center your position, center your body over the right leg, right foot. And test it out, your balance. Lift the right hand off the ground. Release your head and neck. Enjoy that balance puzzle.

Halfway up with a breath in, exhale, inhale come up. Clarify that standing position before you release, and then return to samastitihi. Okay, so we're gonna do some seated postures now, gonna do a little flow through to get to them. So here you are in samastitihi, and reach up. Exhale forward.

Inhale, lift the head and chest, get ready, crouch and spring. Inhale, exhale pull the hips back, alright, so now we gotta jump through to a seated position. So I've got three options for you. Okay, number one is like a step through, okay, so you crouch, they all involve the crouch. So you crouch, and then step forward, and come to dandasana.

Okay, that's the easiest. Number two is a kind of, crouch, and you will cross your feet, kind of lead with the knees. Look at me, so you go, crouch, and then, spring. And then, sort the feet out afterwards. Okay, the last is, the more challenging, so, but, maybe you can do it.

You crouch, and get ready, and straight legs, spring. Jump through to dandasana. And then here you are in the samastitihi of the seated postures. Stamping the thighs down, lifting the navel up, rolling the shoulders into the side plane. And, reach the arms up to a vertical, palms facing each other, shoulder width apart.

And then, here we go, watch, you're gonna lift up, project out, and woah forward, so you're trying to reach through the hands, get very long, all the way from the navel through the fingertips. So either catch your shins, your feet, or your wrist. Breathe in and then exhale. Allow the spine to release down towards your legs. Steady the breath.

Breathe in, halfway up. And stop. And come back to dandasana. Okay, so we did the western stretching posture. Paschimottanasana.

Then you do the complementary, the eastern stretching. That's purvottanasana. And the west is thought of as the back side of the body, okay, and the east is the front. So let's look at it. Gonna do it a few different ways, okay, so you take the hands back about 12 inches behind the hips, fingers facing forward.

Then what you're gonna do is bend the knees, we're kinda doing it in baby steps. So bend the knees and bring your feet back towards you. Lift the chest up, and then lift the pelvis and come up. So you're lifting the back of the pelvis, and lifting up the chest. Keep the chin tucked for the moment, and breathe into your chest.

So look, see the belly going up there? That's what you want to avoid, you actually want the belly to hollow, to fall, and the chest to lift. And then take the head back, as you lift the chest. Stamp the feet down, lift the back of the pelvis, open the chest. And enjoy.

Come down with the chest open. Okay, so that's a very nice position, it's a lot of shoulder work, and actually strengthens the arms at the same time. Okay so next we'll take the position on blocks. So if you put your hands on blocks, you can get a little more feeling of expansion across the chest when you come up. So I've got the blocks 12 inches behind the hips, fingers facing forward, then roll the shoulders back, lift the chest up, and come up with the, leading with the pelvis.

Take the head back, plant the hands, lengthen the arms. Lengthen the legs. And enjoy. Come down with the chest open. Okay, and then the last option is no blocks.

We'll try it. Just come up. Place the hands on the ground, open the chest, get ready, and, lift up the pelvis. Lift the chest. So you're actively lengthening the arms, expanding the chest.

Staying with the breath. And slowly come down. Okay, so now, we're going to transition into our inversions, our finishing postures. So, today we're gonna do it without any support, and do the kind of modified version. Kind of explore that and play around.

So, lay down on your back, bend your knees. Take your hands, your arms down alongside your body. And then, lift your feet off the ground and shoot the legs up. And then lift the pelvis off the ground and place your hands on the pelvis. And then work to get a vertical line between the ankle, knee, and hip.

So the throat is released. Enjoying this little simpler version of shoulder stand. Even though, it still has its challenges. Alright, then you're gonna swivel the hips to the right. And, place your left hand on your sacrum.

And then start to reach the legs out to the left on the diagonal. It's a very interesting little puzzle. And back to center. And then swivel the hips to the right. Lower onto, your hips, your sacrum onto your right hand, and you can keep your vertical position here, if you like, or you can start to go off on the diagonal.

It gets harder as you do that. And back to center. And so if you, you can keep your hands at your pelvis or you can start to try to walk them down and create a more vertical position, but then you can feel how you want to keep your neck free and your weight in your arm foundation. And notice when you add these little varieties, start to stay up there a little longer and get more time in your inversion. Breath is smooth.

Okay, then release your hands and come down. Bend your knees, plant your feet. Lower your chin and rest for a moment or two. Mind control. Watch that wandering mind.

When it starts to exit and go off into the future or the past. Thinking, worrying, planning. Kind of coax it back in, to right now, to this breath. This body, this posture right now. Okay, then we'll come up, and we'll work with our headstand.

So today, we'll play around with coming up. So we've got that tutorial where I show you that, and so I'm not gonna do it at the wall, but you may need to go with the wall if you can't come up while keeping your balance. Unless of course you want to do a backward, do a somersault out, which, I leave that up to you. Okay, so you set up that sound foundation. Plant the head.

And lift the hips. Start to walk in, and remember the head stays light. 50% or more of the weight in the arms. Keep the shoulders lifted, keep the upper back strong. So that upper back braces as you walk the hips and feet towards you.

Okay, and then you go into a little crouch, and we're just gonna do it without springing. So, bend your knees into a crouch, and then fake, straighten the legs with a move like you're gonna come up. And crouch, and, like you're going to go, but don't. So it's kind of interesting, if you don't understand, and you might have to come down and look, I'll do it a couple of times. So I crouch and woah.

It's like I'm making my move, crouch, okay, and then watch for a sec. Come down and watch. So here I go, I crouch, and then I'm working to suck the thighs towards the chest, and get the hips over the shoulders. And then I come down lightly, and I do it again. And again, so we'll do it, here we go.

Set your position up. And then we'll do it, crouch and spring. So your destination is a bent knee position where your hips are over your shoulders. Then go down with control, a light landing and again, crouch, spring. Try to get control there.

It's actually a quite challenging move I'm showing you. And then come down, and rest for a moment. Okay, and so the next move is, once you establish control there with the bent knees you're gonna shoot the legs up to a vertical position. Okay, let me show that to you, and then we'll do it. Okay, so, set up your foundation, walk the feet in, brace the upper back, bend the knees and crouch and spring.

Establish your balance with the bent knees then hooah, right upwards, straight up go the legs. Into sirsasana, and then you come down the same way, bend the knees, sucking the thighs toward the chest, and come down. Okay, so join me. Let's give it a try. You may be at the wall, or you may be working with, just the setup or taking one leg up.

Here we go. You've got your setup and then crouch, spring, come to a balance point with the knees bent. Enjoy that for a moment and then, shoot the legs straight up. Take a chance. And we'll stay for a little moment.

Okay. So bend the knees, come into that squatting position, balancing, and take the feet down lightly. Keep your head on the ground as you roll to the forehead. A breath or two. Okay, push the ground, sit up.

And then, we'll come into our laying down samastitihi. In preparation for shavasana. So every asana, you're contemplating the glorious axis, called sushumna. And so part of why it's called most glorious, is because, by continually honing in on that axis, by focusing on it, training the senses on it, you get mind control. So from distracted states, you enter the present moment.

The, eternal time. The sacred now. Okay, then separate the hands and feet, the arms and legs and, emulate a corpse. Drop your limbs. Still the spinal column.

Hollow the belly. Withdraw the senses. Keep the mind absorbed, in the steady flow of the breath. And notice how when the mind is, what happens to the mind when you're engaged in all that asana activity. So so many things to absorb your attention.

And then when you come to the one position, even if you're laying down and are in relative comfort, how challenging it is to stay present. So you're using that asana dynamism to enter into moments of dynamic stillness. And enjoying that utthana, concentration. Okay so, here we go, we come up and out. Okay.

So that's it for today's session. I look forward to joining you tomorrow. Namaste.


Susan J
I'm sure I'm not alone in finding headstand difficult. Somehow the spring upwards has deserted me.

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