The Ashtanga Practice Artwork
Season 5 - Episode 8

Resolution: Second Half Primary

35 min - Practice


After completing the Half Primary series with Dylan, we will now complete the second half of the Primary series. Dylan breaks down some of the more complicated postures step-by-step, sharing tips and techniques. Join Dylan in the Full Finishing Series.
What You'll Need: Mat


Read Full Transcript

Hey, congratulations, you've made it through the first half of Primary Series with some kind of proficiency and you feel, and hopefully your teacher is also encouraging you, that you should start taking on some or even all of the postures that comprise the end of the Primary Series. The beginning of Primary, as you well know, because you've been doing it now, is very solar, it's very rhythmic, and it's a lot of forward bending, it's a lot of moving in one direction, right side vinyasa, left side vinyasa, whereas the second half of Primary, some other things start to be called upon and other things start to be called into question. So what we'll do now is take some time and work on the resolution, the completion of Primary Series. So we'll break down some postures, sometimes we'll be on the Sanskrit vinyasa count, but other times we'll take some time, give you some modifications, look at how things work or how things might work better for you. So let's say we've just finished Navasana, perhaps you've just done the half Primary with me here on Yoga Anytime, and then come to the top of your mat and we'll take a vinyasa to Bhujipitasana.

Ekaminhale, dvayexhale, trinihale, chaturayexhale, panjainhale, bhujipitasana, bhujipitasana, bhujipitasana, panjainhale, sharexhale. So I'll do the full posture here, if you're familiar with the full pose, just come with me. Saptainhale, jump your feet around, catch, and ashta, exhale, keeping the feet off the mat, go forward, maybe the top of the head or the chin touches, twisty nose, one, two, heel grounding through the palms, root knuckles down, three, four, five, nava, inhale, come up, exhale here, and dasya, inhale, swing your feet back to bhakasana, ekarsha, exhale, jump back, chaturanga, dvarsha, inhale, triyodhasha, exhale, okay, come on down and sit upon your mat. So let's presume that maybe you're not familiar with the entire posture, and let's look at some ways, some techniques and tips that are going to help you get through it. How would we break this down step by step?

Well, bhujipitasana is an incredibly important posture, because it's the first pose that's going to be a pure arm balance. So your hand position is going to be incredibly important. Just like every chaturanga, make sure your fingers are really spread, the thumbs drawing back, grounding through the root knuckle, not letting that index mound slip off the mat. It's best you're able. Also your elbows will be right above the wrists, trying not to have them bow out to the side, and about a shoulder's width apart.

Incredibly important as well, because it's the first pose where you start to move the foot almost behind the head. Okay, my foot's not behind my head in bhujipitasana, but you see that interesting relationship between the shoulder and the knee that's developed through Parsvokonasana, Marichy A, Marichy C, where the twists begin. Now here we have a different relationship happening where the knee is outside the shoulder, and it's getting ready to go back behind the head. So really important pose, don't skip over it. Take some time and workshop it if you're not fully in the posture yet.

So what you might do is up to inhale, jump your feet wider than your hands, land on your feet. Maybe your hands are right behind the feet. Maybe that position doesn't come to you, and you've just got your feet really wide here. And then you want to spread your toes out to the side. So turn your feet out with your heels in, and that way when you bend your knees, you're going to get all this space between your knees.

That's going to allow you to try to get, let's say, your right shoulder under first. Use both hands and get the right shoulder back under the knee. And then maybe move the foot in a little, keeping the right hand on the right shin. Take the left hand and try to get the left shoulder under the knee. So now you've got your knees in front of your shoulders as more or less as best you're able.

This might be a posture where you're working right there. Maybe you can get the hands down behind the feet. That might take a while, trying to get the palms flat. No tenting will help you here. You need the whole hand on the mat.

If you're getting comfortable there, elbows in, and keep your elbows bent here. So giving yourself straight arms is only going to mean that you slide off. Try to keep the elbows bent so you can sit down the middle of the back thigh onto the bent elbows. Maybe this is a place where you hold five breaths. Or maybe this is a place where you start to get the feet together and off the mat, five breaths here, or getting the right foot over the left, five breaths here.

And if you watch the feet here, with the feet gently crossed, I start to dorsiflex both feet and get my right Achilles tendon in front of my left shin. Then I point the toes using the right heel to hook the left shin. Five breaths here could work, or gently going forward, maybe the feet touch. Try to keep them up off the mat. Maybe you put the head down and then pull the feet up, five breaths here.

Feet from any of those positions and nava inhale and come up, and maybe when you release, the feet come back to the mat. And maybe you can't jump back into bhakasana or into the bhakasana-like position to chaturanga just yet. It's okay. Come down. But don't cheat yourself of that experience of learning the bhakasana-like jump back to chaturanga.

It's really going to help you, and it's probably easier than you think it is, or it's easier than it looks. So whatever has happened for you in your bhujipidasana modification, then again, plant your hands the shoulders width apart, really spread the fingers, middle fingers, facing forward, thumbs pulled back. When the elbows bend, they come straight back behind you, not out to the side, just like every chaturanga you've ever done, ideally. And then put your knees behind your shoulders. You can bend the elbows if you like.

Lift one and lift both feet and try to balance here. It's fine if the head feels like it's coming forward to the mat. That will help you balance. If you're not familiar with the jump back just yet, exhale and take one leg and then fully commit and decide maybe just one leg will go back. And exhale, shoot the leg back, and then the other leg comes down, exhaling to any chaturanga.

Inhale upward facing. Exhale downward facing dog. All right, kormasana, it's up to inhale, jump your feet to that same position around the hands. But this time exhaling, getting the shoulders under the knees again, let the sitting bones come down towards the mat. Now korma in the kormasana means this is the posture of the tortoise.

So we want to have patience, that's the virtue of the tortoise. So take your time, the lumbar spine, lower back can be asked a lot of here, so you want to maybe even just enjoy this posture. Your hands can take the inside and the arch of the feet and gently lengthen the spine. Or if it's comfortable, maybe the shoulders start to creep under the knees, the hands come back shooting behind you and the feet just a bit wider than your mat in front, perhaps even reaching the center of the chest forward, perhaps even straightening the legs. But if there's any pressure in the elbow, keep the knees bent, we're not trying to crush the arms to the ground here.

Five breaths here with the drishti up towards the third eye. And then supta kormasana, the sleeping tortoise. Bend your knees a little so your knees come away from the mat and you have more clearance then to really get the shoulders under. Just like in Marichyasana is internally rotating to bend the elbow and get a hand high up on the back, one side then the other, ashta, exhale, take your hands into a bind or use a towel or a strap. And then nava, exhale, you put your feet behind your head or just cross them over like bhujipidasana.

Now if you've been doing intermediate or you're fairly familiar with getting your feet behind your head, you could just sit up here, do the feet first, left foot first, again see how the knee comes behind the shoulder and that's going to help you get the left foot behind the head and then right foot behind the left and you can dorsiflex the feet here and then lower the head down on the mat and from there, bind your hands behind. Five breaths here, inhale releasing the hands, planting them in front of the hips, shoulders width apart, dasa, inhale, lifting up off the mat, dakarasa, exhale, let the feet go back towards bhakasana position, inhaling here and dvarsa, exhale, shoot back, chaturanga, triyugsha, inhale upward facing, chaturgd, dakarasa, exhale, downward facing dog. Now again, if you weren't able to take the full transition to bhakasana, don't cheat yourself with that bhakasana experience. It's scary, maybe it's terrifying, all the more reason why you should do it, letting your faith grow bigger than your fear as you balance and know that just straighten the legs behind you will find you towards the mat. Great, garbapindasana, sapta inhale jumping through, straight legs sitting down and then ashtau, exhale, put your feet towards lotus, if you're comfortable in lotus you go for it, if the knees aren't comfortable in lotus do not force it, daily practice will open the hips, that will relieve pressure in the knees, you'll be fine, but for today take a modified posture, is that cross legs for you, that's fine, elbows outside the knees, or if the knees feel okay enough for a half lotus, one foot up in the thigh, the other foot hanging, elbows outside the knees, now notice when I'm modifying here I'm not going hands outside the knees, I'm trying to squeeze into this little ball with the elbows grasping the knees and keep it there, again if you're comfortable in full lotus, only if you're comfortable, then take the hand and slide it in front of the foot in between the calf and the thigh, trying to get past the elbow, so that then when you bend at the elbow the fingers can come up towards the face, so with elbows through or hands or elbows outside the knees modified bring your fingers to your forehead or even slide your middle fingers into your ears, and breathe here, just your nose, five breaths, if you're in the modified position you can follow along with the rolling, just try to keep your elbows outside your knees the whole time, if you're in the full pose elbows will stay where they are obviously, bring your fingertips towards the forehead, whichever posture you're in, whichever variation, inhaling here and keep the spine really rounding, as we now the exhale roll back on one side of the spinal bones, the vertebrae or the other, try not to roll in the bones themselves avoid any crunchy feeling, if it hurts your back when you're doing this posture if it hurts the bones put them down a blanket or something underneath so that you have good soft padding, with the exhale we'll go back with the inhale come up, so many times people want to reverse that breath thinking about doing something hard on the exhale but part of our yoga practice will be to use the inhale to come up, so exhale back inhale rolling around in a circle in a clockwise direction and then kukutasana, inhale come up straight in the arms and lift up keeping your knees high, draw your chest forward through the shoulders chin is forward drishti down the tip of the nose five breaths here and exhale come down take out the arms and move vinyasa from here, so again if you had the modified position you'd just be lifting up like utpluti here or something like that with a half lotus or even simple crossed legs trying to keep the feet both of them may be off the mat so that you feel that you're working through the abdomen you can vinyasa from crossed legs or if you're very comfortable in lotus and good in arm balance positioning where you can keep the feet elevated then you could dasha inhale lift up a karasha shoot back with straight legs before they touch the mat, drishti inhale upward facing, drishti exhale downward facing dog, bada konasana, sapta inhale jump through straight legs sit down and exhale draw the soles of both feet towards one another and then open the soles of the feet up towards the sky, so patabi joist was always saying open your feet like a book I take the thumbs put them down on the root knuckle of the big toe mound so that when I draw open the feet it's like the big toe nail wants to come towards the mat and that will be useful keeping the elbows in close to the ribs elbows on the ribs inhale a long straight spine and then exhale gently going forward keeping the spine as straight as you can so in this posture avoid the buckling and bada konasana a trying to find that this spine is straightening and even pulling on the feet so you feel like you're going to try to pull your feet into your chest and what will happen then is the chest will come down to the feet notice the elbows are not pushing on the thighs elbows in close to the ribs five breaths here drishti on the nose another inhale come up now bada konasana b will do the opposite action with the spine as you dasha exhale really tuck the tailbone under towards the heels really scoop the belly up and around the spine completely pulling on the feet this time we'll draw the head down towards the feet and breathe still the elbows off of the thighs drishti down the tip of the nose five breaths here and bada konasana b a kadasha inhale straight arm straight spine coming all the way back up and operating with restraint here exhale in the posture don't hurry to leave the pose and then crossing the legs plant the hands drishti inhale lift up triogdisha exhale step her up chaturanga chaturgisha inhale upward facing and pancharsha exhale downward facing dog upavishta konasana sapta inhale jumper step through with straight legs sit down and dandasana exhale and spread the legs wide apart from one another inhale reach forward take the outsides of the feet with the fingers if you're so wide that you can't get the outsides of the feet you've come too wide make sure you can really get a good grab on outside of feet the inhale lengthening the spine with straight strong legs ashta exhale and fold forward you can pull a bit on the feet if you like one drishti is on the third eye or eyebrows center two if there's pain pulling in the back of the side hamstring back off a pose or bend the knee is needed three four five inhale come up with a straight spine exhale here operating with restraint just exhale from there be begins inhale reach the hands up and then reach the feet up but try to keep the legs straight so you might be able to do that with control at first or it might take some momentum at first but avoid bending the knees to do it drishti would be straight up above the ceiling the head really rocking back as you look up for five breaths now again of course it'd be easy for you to bend and ease take the outsides of the feet and then just straighten the legs but really try to keep the legs straight so that you're working through the hip flexor through the core musculature and finding connection between the thigh and the lumbar spine between the lower body and the upper body again inhale come up exhale here and now by inhale reach the arms up maybe if you need momentum to do it for now flip the feet up and try to catch and look straight up point to toes but with time you'll be able to use less momentum more control more choice will be coming your way and when you're up in the posture try to lengthen the spine towards straightening looking straight up and after five breaths exhale completely cross the legs plant the hands akarsha inhale lift up dvarsha exhale jump back chaturanga triyogdshah inhale upward facing chaturgdshah exhale downward facing dog supta konasana sapta inhale jump through straight legs sit down now for the next this posture and the last five postures of the primary sequence and then backbends you will start with straight legs in dandasana and exhale lie down on your back while keeping straight legs if it hurts your lumbar spine bend your knees but if it doesn't hurt your lumbar spine don't bend your knees try to let this controlled action work through the core getting the core online so that you can lie down on an exhale and be on your back and then from there with straight legs ashta inhale draw straight legs up hips above the shoulders take your big toes and five breaths here looking down the tip of the nose holding the big toes pulling the big toes towards the hips really sticking out the heels use the momentum of the breath as you did in garbha pindasana exhale completely and nava inhale come up straight legs only exhale go down only with straight legs so that your calf catches the mat and your heel stays safe and elevated inhale head up only and exhale operating with restraint exhale here so the vinyasa would come there of course if that's a posture you're working on again working at home i really want you to make sure that you're operating with straight legs as best you're able it's easy to cheat out of these positions but working with straight legs is going to help you really understand udiyana bandha and working through the core so the vinyasa there you got another chance to try it again later inhale lift up exhale jump back exhale downward facing dog up to eight inhale jump through straight legs sit down exhale lie down on your back left hand will be grounded on the hip or the thigh point the left toe ashta inhale straight leg the right leg lifts up maybe you can last the big toe pointing the toe here maybe you need a strap or a towel that's fine and nava exhale keep the leg where it is and try to bring the body up towards the leg using the core one dishti moving up towards the right big toe too taking five breaths here and then dasha inhale bring the head back down but keep the foot where it is so in this posture we get great chance for separation having spaces between the breaths a karasha exhale and bring the right leg to right side again with straight legs if you're able looking over the left shoulder and take your breath here the left hand can help cue udiyana bandha feeling that the abdomen lower abdomen stays empty so the breath floods the upper chest dvarsha inhale draw the leg to center notice my head is still on the mat triyogdisha exhale body meets the leg chaturgdisha inhale head down only don't hurry pancharsha exhale leave your leg right hand to right hip or thigh shouldershine inhale left leg up catch saptarsha exhale body up towards the leg five breaths here internally rolling your right thigh shouldershine inhale head down only saptarsha exhale bring your left leg to left side and look over your right shoulder five breaths here the right hand can help cue udiyana vimshatihi inhale draw the leg to center ekha vimshatihi exhale lean forward and touch draw vimshatihi inhale head down only don't hurry and triyogdisha exhale leave your leg come down so you can roll up and take a vinyasa or if you're staying with the breath count you could go to chaturanga dandasana by going into chakrasana inhaling to draw all the limbs back exhaling to push the hands behind the shoulders as you tuck the chin and draw the feet back behind you then you could re-center yourself on the mat still exhaling to chaturanga panjavimshatihi inhale upward facing and shatvimshatihi exhale downward facing dog ubhaya panagusthasana sapta inhale jump through straight legs all right so ubhaya panagusthasana is a great posture to really learn momentum but it's another pitfall where you could if unwatched just cheat yourself through the pose bending your knees or whatever so really i want you to learn or i hope that you can learn in the second half of primary how to use the power of the inhale to draw you up starts with garbapindasana of course in supta konasana rolling up making sure that you're rolling up in the inhale and it gets challenged here through the last few postures and eventually if you've done inhale up the tutorial here uh on back bending you'll realize that you need an inhale up to come all the way up from a drop back from urdhva dhanurasana from the back bend so really try to harness the power of the inhale through this practice try to take on challenge and rise up into it okay exhaling with straight legs lie down on your back ash downhale draw straight legs back behind you catch your big toes feet are still together and then right from here you'll exhale nava inhale roll up to help you you might find momentum at first tucking the toes under really deeply so that the big toe pads are on the mat you've kind of spring loaded the posture you may even exhale and draw your hips further above your head pushing more weight to your feet waiting for the belly or the middle of the inhalation where it gets really thick and full to roll up so wait for the inhale to cue you and then you'll push off with your feet and push off with your head and roll up whoa i gave myself too much momentum that's a good sign that's a good sign because that means you've got you're able to harness enough momentum with straight legs to come up then it's just a matter of tempering it and making sure that you don't use that much so let's try again exhale lie down feel free at home to try as many times as you like inhale feet behind the head exhale here and nava inhale roll up straight legs point your toes and look straight up and you'll hold here this is the state of asana for five breaths this is the only place where the posture is held straight spine straight arms looking straight up above the ceiling and then exhaling let go cross the legs plant the hands dasha inhale lift up ekarasha exhale jump back dvarsa inhale upward facing dog triogdasha exhale downward facing dog urdvamukha pashimattanasana sapta inhale jump through straight legs sit down this will be the same posture more or less just made a little bit more challenging so if you haven't worked through the previous posture by a parangustrasana with straight legs keep working on that if you're ready exhale lie down on your back ashta inhale draw the feet behind the head here take the heels or the outside of the feet again tucking the toes under spring loading in nava inhale roll up with straight legs point your toes and look straight up and then dasha exhale and you can bend your elbows taking like a pashimattanasana position a forward fold drishti towards the toes maybe your hand position changes point your toes after five breaths still operating with restraint ekarasha inhale straight arms straight spine looking straight up above the ceiling and exhale here and then let go dvarsa inhale upward triogdasha exhale jump back chaturgdasha inhale upward facing dog pancharasha exhale downward facing dog jump through straight legs sit down getting to the last pose of primary series here a pose which will ask a lot your faith will want to be bigger than your fear but also i want you to be controlled not recklessly head off into the posture if you have a history of neck injury or some things going on there modify the pose freely as much or as little as you like so if you're doing a modified posture of course you could do a more standard satubandasana exhaling lie down on your back ashta prepare bringing the feet like you're going to do a back bend feet flat wider than the hips and then maybe keeping the shoulders on the mat you just inhale lift your hip up the tailbone pointing towards the heels interlace the fingers and roll the shoulders under take five breaths there of course that's not the traditional ashtanga position if you're doing that and you're ready to take that on maybe the first oh i don't know 50 or 60 times you do it keep your hands down by the side use your hands like training wheels so that you don't put so much pressure on your neck and on your head if you're taking on the absolute full position then the question of how far the feet from the hips is becomes incredibly important if your feet are very close to your hips when you go up then you put a lot of weight onto your neck if your feet are very far from your hips it'll be very difficult for you to get any elevation at all so let's use an anatomical measurement there on one hand take your pinky to your thumb spread and then connect the other pinky and then from there measure your heels with one pinky and find that your hips are where the other thumb is so you've got that whole spread happening through the hands now your feet want to be heels touching and absolutely turned out so you want to try to eventually get the root knuckle your big toe mound down towards the mat but keep the heels touching you've done that anatomical measurement make sure you have enough room that your head will stay on the mat of course you don't want to slide off there and then exhale lie down on your back if you're doing the modified position hands will be on the side the training wheels of which i spoke or if you're doing full position you start with the hands folded under the armpits either way you do it keep your shoulders up off the mat let your head rock back to a middle place so somewhere on the top of the head hands could be down or under the shoulders nava inhale pushing to the head and to the heels inhale lift up if you're modifying you're also pushing into your hands like i am then drish the up towards third eye five breaths here maybe you're even straightening the legs if there's pain pressure in the neck come down and when you're ready to exhale come down put your hips on the mat and then release the head and chakrasana again you could do the backwards somersault or again anytime you could roll up and take a regular vinyasa exhaling to chaturanga inhaling upward facing exhale downward facing dog uh and jump through straight legs sit down and exhale lie down on your back straight legs of course as you lie down from here you'll go into your backbend sequence and your full finishing so all that's detailed and counted in the full finishing practice make sure that you do some finishing at least after detailed and deep practice like the second half of primary and realize of course there's a few things at play here i think the choice of how long your spine and how rounded your spine is becomes really important as well as choosing how much you're using momentum and eventually dialing that momentum away so that you're doing it with control you're able to find yourself moving through the transitions with absolute control and as you continue this practice a regular daily practice of ashtanga you start to realize you have choice and control or management over all sorts of things you never thought were under your control your breathing rate perhaps even your heart rate your emotional state your mental state so from that place instead of just blindly pushing yourself through life and going on momentum you learn some choice some control and i hope that that's useful for you it certainly has been for me thank you


Kate M
Really helpful ideas here for approaching some of these demanding poses. Thank you, Dylan!

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