Building Confidence

Standing poses are essential to build a strong foundation of asana practice and help the practitioner feel more grounded in life, says Reema Vengurlekar.

I’ve been practising ashtanga since 2015, and my first trip to Mysore in November 2019 was a dream come true. I spent two months at the Sharath Jois Ashtanga Yoga Centre in Mysore and practised daily under the guidance of Paramguru Sharath Jois and his assistants. The experience has changed the way I understand and approach yoga.

Before attending the Mysore shala, I thought this was an elite institution where only advanced practitioners go to showcase their asana skills. The reality is quite different. Students at the shala are practising at various levels. Some do half primary, others practise until intermediate series and only a handful of practitioners are in the third or fourth series. I was intimidated by the large number of students at the shala in my first class. I felt that I would get easily lost in the crowd, but that wasn’t the case. In a Mysore-style class, we practise individually at our own pace while Sharathji and his assistants (authorised teachers) observe our practice and guide us when needed. There are 500 students practising at the shala but there was always someone available to help me or assist me through a tough pose.

With each day that I practised at Sharathji’s shala, I became more comfortable with the teachers, the students and myself. This is not an elite institution for advanced asana practitioners at all. It is a place of learning where everyone is welcome. The ashtanga community is tight-knit and it doesn’t matter what level of asana you practise. At the shala, all students are treated equally.

The entire experience has deepened my ashtanga practise and my belief in this system. I cannot wait to come back. One of the biggest lessons I learned about my practice is the importance of the standing poses we do at the beginning of primary series. When I felt intimidated or any kind of fear, I would focus on my standing poses and it gave me an instant sense of grounding and confidence. I understand why these poses are the building blocks of the practice. That’s another advantage of practising at the Mysore shala — you really start to understand the practice as you’re surrounded by it and by people who have an abundance of experience and knowledge about yoga. You develop a deep connection to the ashtanga lineage at its source.

The standing poses gave me the strength and grounding I needed to deepen and further explore the primary series. I’ve deconstructed utthita trikonāsana A and B, and utthita pārśvakonāsana A and B below. These asanas give a sense of stability and on a physical level, trikonāsana dissolves bad fat around the waist and strengthens the spine while pārśvakonāsana works on the rib cage and lower abdomen.

Standing Poses for Stability

Utthita Trikonāsana A

Stand in samasthitiḥ with your feet together and your hands by your side. Your gaze fixed on the floor

Inhale and take a step so your legs are around three to four feet apart and raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor.

Reema Vengurlekar

Turn your right foot to a 90-degree angle and your left foot slightly inwards. As you exhale, stretch sideways and grip your right toe with your right hand. If you can’t grip your toe, place the right hand on your leg). Raise your left arm overhead keeping it in line with your shoulder. Fix your gaze on the thumb of your left hand. Stay in the pose for five breaths. Inhale as you come back up and release the pose. Then repeat on the left side and come back to samasthitiḥ.

Utthita Trikonāsana B

Stand in samasthitiḥ with your feet together and your hands by your side. Your gaze fixed on the floor. Inhale and take a step so your legs are around three to four feet apart and raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor. Turn your right foot to a 90-degree angle and your left foot slightly inwards. As you exhale, turn your torso to the right and start moving downward to bring your left palm and place it on the floor next to your right foot. Fingertips aligned with the toes. Raise your right arm overhead and gaze at your thumb. Stay in the pose for five breaths. Inhale as you come back up and release the pose. Then repeat on the left side and come back to samasthitiḥ.

Utthita Pārśvakonāsana A

Stand in samasthitiḥ with your feet together and your hands by your side. Your gaze fixed on the floor. Inhale and take a step so your legs are around four to five feet apart and raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor. Turn your right foot to a 90-degree angle and your left foot slightly inwards. As you exhale, bend your right knee till your right thigh is parallel to the floor, and bring your right palm to rest next to the right foot (if possible. Don’t worry if your palm is not flat on the floor). Raise your left arm along the side of your body and extend it overhead. Fix your gaze on the middle finger of your left hand. Stay in the pose for five breaths. Inhale as you come back up and release the pose. Then repeat on the left side and come back to samasthitiḥ.

Utthita Pārśvakonāsana B

Stand in samasthitiḥ with your feet together and your hands by your side. Your gaze fixed on the floor. Inhale and take a step so your legs are around four to five feet apart and raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor. Turn your right foot to a 90-degree angle and your left foot slightly inwards. As you exhale, bend your right knee till your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Turn your torso and bring your left arm across the right knee and place your left palm next to your right foot (if possible. Don’t worry if your palm is not flat on the floor). Raise the right arm overhead and fix your gaze on your right thumb. Stay in the pose for five breaths. Inhale as you come back up and release the pose. Then repeat on the left side and come back to samasthitiḥ.

Reema Vengurlekar is a Mumbai-based yoga practitioner.

January 18, 2020
Photos Simon Meier

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Harshada Ambavane

    Very Inspiring 👌👍🙇‍♀️🙏

  2. Neha Surve

    YOGA is real inspiration🙏

  3. Neha Surve

    Real inspiration🙏❤️

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