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Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose

I fall into my yoga practice with relish akin to getting into bed at the end of a long day. Many people start their practice with a series of asanas such as Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) to warm the body up, but I usually start by lying over a bolster that I've placed under my back.

At first glance lying down on a bolster may seem like a strange way to prepare for active asanas. Bolsters are more commonly used as preparations in restorative practices or, occasionally, to prepare for backbends. But work with bolster has deeper gifts to give.  continued »

OneBolstered Backbend Roll
1 or 2 blankets into a firm cylinder. Lie back on this roll so that it supports your middle and lower back (from the lower tips of the shoulder blades down). Your hips and head will rest on the floor. If your lower back or neck are uncomfortable, reposition the bolster and/or place another, smaller bolster under your shoulders and neck. Relax your arms at your sides.
TwoBackbend Over a Crate
Roll two blankets into a firm cylinder and place them on top of a sturdy crate or stool. Lie back over the bolster, positioning it in the small of your back. With your hips and shoulders at the same level, melt back over the bolster until your spine relaxes. To extend further, stretch your arms overhead or bend your elbows and grasp the crate or stool. Relax your neck, and roll your top shoulderblades toward the stool to open your chest more. Extend your legs and place your feet flat on the floor. Focus on steady breathing to enhance an internal focus.
ThreeSetu Bandha Sarvangasana
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than hip-width apart, and your heels positioned directly under your knees. With a steady exhalation, extend your calves and the backs of your thighs to raise your hips and lift onto your shoulders. Join your hands under your back and straighten your arms onto the floor. Roll your top shoulderblades toward your tailbone to open your chest and lift the spine. Extend your calves to plant the heels and lightly tuck your tailbone to raise your hips.
FourUrdhva Dhanurasana
Lift again into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Reposition your arms by placing your palms on the floor with your fingertips pointing toward your shoulders; keep your elbows shoulder-width apart. With a steady exhalation, extend the backs of your thighs and calves to pull the shoulders and head off the floor. Simultaneously, roll your top shoulderblades toward your tailbone and straighten your arms. Continuing to breathe steadily, lift your top ribs away from your arms. Position your arms and lower legs as perpendicular to the floor as possible. [Two versions here: A. if we have two additional illustrations B. the more probable single illustration of dwi pada]
FiveHalf-Way to Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
From Urdhva Dhanurasana, bend your elbows and place the crown of your head on the floor. Extend the backs of your legs to keep your hips raised and spine lifted. Open your chest and rotate your top shoulderblades toward your tailbone. Keeping one hand firmly planted on the floor, slide the other arm past your head and cup the back of your head in your hand. Repeat this action with the other arm and join your hands behind your head.

• Increase spine and shoulder flexibility
• Strengthens and invigorates the whole body
• Improves respiration
• Builds confidence
• Develops humility

• Spinal nerve damage and disc problems
• Chronic shoulder dislocations
• Pregnancy
• Unmanaged high blood pressure
• Retina problems


© 2001 Barbara Benagh
Reprinted from Yoga Journal