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Virasana Session 4
From the upright kneeling position, bring one leg forwards and place the foot on the ground in front of you. You may need to place a support (e.g. a yoga block, a couple of books or a thickly folded towel) beside the foot that is still pointing backwards (behind your trunk). Lower your buttocks backwards onto the support or floor, so your heel is just outside buttocks. Ideally, the pelvic girdle will be level – adjust the height of the support you are using to achieve this. Lean backwards to place your hands on the floor behind you, palms face down, fingers pointing forwards. Press into the hands enough to give a sense of consciously pointing the knees downwards into the floor. Lift the pelvic girdle just sufficiently to let you tilt the pelvic girdle so its back moves towards the floor and the tailbone points more towards the knees. Keep the head lifted so that your face remains looking forwards. Inhaling, imagine the breath entering into and expanding the chest and encourage the breastbone to lift towards the ceiling. Exhaling, thinking in terms of maintaining the openness of the chest, squeeze the abdomen in towards the spine. Continue for several breaths before gently relaxing the legs, lowering the hips and then lifting up into upright. Lift your hips and trunk up to the one-foot-forwards kneeling position and then return the raised knee to the upright kneeling position. Repeat to the other side. With practice you will find this exercise becomes possible, and comfortable, with decreasing amounts of padding (height) under your buttocks.
From the upright kneeling position, place the support used for the previous exercise between your feet. Make sure your toes point backwards, “tops” of feet rest on the floor (soles of feet facing upward) and heels of feet are just wide enough apart to allow your buttocks to fit between them. Keeping your trunk long and essentially straight, lower your buttocks backwards to the support placed between your feet – as you do this, use your hands to roll your calf muscles outwards (away from the thigh muscles). Lean your trunk as a whole forwards a little and rest your hands palms face up on your thighs so your elbows point sideways. Have a sense of your elbows moving away (or pointing away) from each other and similarly for your shoulders. Keeping your chin tucked inwards, and your shoulders broad, draw the back of your neck and shoulders backwards until they are above the hips (or back of pelvic girdle) – at this point, the spine is in a back–bend. Now consciously encourage your tailbone to sink downwards until the back of your pelvic girdle is vertical – having a sense of pressing down through the shins will help with this. For several breaths, let your awareness rest with the gentle movement that occurs in the upper abdomen with your breath. When you are ready to release, press through the lower legs to lift up into the upright kneeling position.
Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Place your hands on your knees – and, if your lower back would like it, spend several breaths, gently drawing your knees a little closer to your chest with each out breath. Then, inhaling, straighten your legs upwards so heels stay over the hips (i.e. OK for legs not to completely straighten) and, at the same time, straighten your arms upwards (vertical over the shoulder joints). Exhaling, bend knees back to chest and return the hands to the knees. Continue for 4 to 8 more breaths, enjoying slow movements and the gentle smooth flow of breath.
Lie down in a comfortable position and practise a relaxation method of your choice. You could try the following as a relaxation practice – imagine there is a well of nurturing water underneath your knees. Imagine water flowing up into the knees, dissolving any “grittiness” than might be in the joint, and then flowing up upper leg, and down the lower leg to return to the earth at the heels and hip – imagine the flow gently encouraging a little more space in the knee joints. Remember not to rush sitting up and standing after practising relaxation as it causes the blood pressure to fall, which can cause dizziness if one moves too quickly.