Yoga Sequence: New Perspectives; Turning Yourself Upside Down

Thinking other people are better than you—whether it’s because they are smarter or prettier or more successful—is a form of self-deprecation. It’s also a waste of energy. Physically, I probably looked beautiful and healthy enough, but inside, I was a dilapidated house where no music was playing. I cringe when I think about how jealousy turned me ugly. I wasn’t practicing yoga’s first ethical rule of ahimsa, or “nonharming.” I was harming myself with desperate attempts to be the woman I thought Robin would love. Getting in touch with my body through Dwight’s training saved me. It made me feel kick-ass, strong, and confident. The lightning strike, which was terrifying, woke me up to the preciousness of each moment.

When our world gets turned upside down, we may as well turn ourselves upside down. Poses that are called inversions allow you to see life from a different perspective. Inversions demand presence of mind. You can’t be obsessing about your insecurities or worrying about your to-do list when you’re in Handstand. Mr. Iyengar said that inversions increase mental function and help to optimize the pineal, pituitary, and thyroid glands. Headstand and Shoulder Stand are known to relieve constipation, too. I use them when I need an attitude adjustment.

This sequence will give you a taste of inversions. Even if you can’t balance on your hands or arms, there are many inversion poses that place your head below your heart and create similar benefits. (Potential contraindications for inversions include high blood pressure, glaucoma, menstruation, and pregnancy.)

Supported Downward-Facing Dog

Supported Downward-Facing Dog (adho mukha shvanasana). Have a block handy. Fold into Child’s Pose (balasana), and reach your arms actively forward. Keep your hands and feet where they are, tuck your toes under, and lift your knees off the floor, pulling your hips back until your arms straighten. Then place the block on the floor at one of its three heights (low, middle, high), positioned under your forehead. Support the head in such a way that the ears are aligned between the arms. This is an inversion in which all four of your limbs are on the ground so it doesn’t provoke much fear, but it can still be disorientating because you’re upside down. Stay in the pose for 10 breaths. Then walk your feet forward and stand at the front of your mat.

Supported Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend

Supported Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (prasarita padottanasana). Step about 3 feet to the right. Put your hands on your hips, inhale, and lift your chest. Then exhale and fold forward. (If your head doesn’t easily touch the floor, put a block or two under your head to support it comfortably.) This is a simple inverted pose most people can do. Mr. Iyengar said it will give you 90 percent of the benefits of Headstand because it stimulates the pineal glands (which produce melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep patterns). The only thing missing will be the keen mental focus that’s required in Headstand and other more challenging inverted poses. Keep your legs active and stay in the pose for 10 breaths.

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