Do you want to know what the secret to life is? It is about experiencing life.
Each of us has a unique journey, and the practices of Yoga support us and make our experience much more enjoyable. Pranayama clears and connects us to our subtle energy. Meditation offers us a remembrance of our true self. The asanas ground us more deeply in our bodies so that we can get the most out of our time here.
There is a special place for twists along this journey. Balancing for the nervous system, twists remind us to calm the mind, no matter how the path curves. They teach us that even when things feel tight inside, we can find comfort in our even, steady breath.
Some twists also remind us of our strength. Pasasana, or noose pose, is one of these. This is a twist that requires strength and flexibility in the lower body -- squatting with your heels on the ground strengthens the thighs and opens the tendons and ligaments around your ankles. As your torso spirals, your spine, and the nervous system that is so closely linked to it, experiences 15 to 20 breaths of spaciousness.
Like life, this pose is a journey, not a destination. There are many levels of pasasana, and there is no hurry to reach the full expression. Find your meeting point today. Over time it will shift, just like life.
Here at Hale Pule, we talk about asana with three designations: essence, anchor and strength. This is a simple tool to remember the intention of the pose, where your body is grounded and the muscles you engage for proper alignment. These components will support optimal energy flow and a sustainable practice throughout your life.
Essence: Balancing to the nervous system, strengthens and creates flexibility in the lower body
Anchor: The balls of the feet and heels
Strength: Thighs, abdominals and back
Pasasana from the ground up
We’ve outlined several modifications that break the pose down into steps. No matter where you are, extend through your spine as you twist and breathe evenly and calmly. If either of these are compromised, you’ve gone too far. Back off a little and come into the pose a few steps away from your edge.
1. Start in tadasana, feet hip-width distance apart and hands alongside your body.
2. Bring your hands to anjali mudra, prayer position, and your toes to touch.
3. Bend your knees and stick your bottom out like you were going to sit in a chair. Your torso will naturally come forward with an extended spine. Keep lowering your buttocks, as long as you can keep your heels grounded on the earth.
4. Extend through your spine. Keeping your knees and hips in an even horizontal line, gently spiral from your tailbone up to your crown. Rest your right elbow on your left knee with hands in anjali mudra. Pause here and breathe.
5. Continue to lower your buttocks so that your heels are resting on your calves (if your heels come up at any point, back off and stay where your heels can remain grounded for 15 to 20 breaths). Then move into one of the arm variations. In each of these, make sure your spine is fully extended, your knees and hips stay in the same horizontal line and that your chest remains broad and open:
Variation 1: Place your left palm on the mat behind your left hip to keep your upper body upright, but not leaning back. Keep your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh and extend through your fingertips.
Variation 2: Keep your right elbow on the outside of your left thigh and extend through your fingertips. Wrap your left hand around your back to meet your right hip.
Variation 3: Wrap your right arm around the front of your right shin. Wrap your left hand around your back to meet your right hip or the right hand if possible. If you can join both hands, take your left wrist with your right hand while the left hand comes into jnana mudra (index and thumb to touch, rest of fingers extended).
To come out of the first two variations, bring your hands back to anjali mudra at your right knee and unwind. Stand up with an extended spine and repeat on the other side. If you are practicing the third variation, unwind and, remaining in the squatting position, repeat the arm variation on the other side.
If your hips and knees move side to side, practice coming into pasasana at a wall. Stand with your feet near a wall and bend your knees to extend your buttocks back until they touch the wall, keeping the spine extended. As you twist, focus on maintaining the connection to the wall with both of your sit bones.
Common trouble spots
Rounded back. Maintain the integrity of your spine by extending from your tailbone to the crown of your head before you go into the twist. If you cannot do the pose without a rounded back, you have gone too far.
Heels off ground. Stop whenever your heels come off the ground. Having both feet planted fully on the ground creates stability and supports your knees and hips to stay aligned.
Knees or hips not aligned. Your knees and hips should remain in the same plane the entire time you are in the pose.