Friday, 5 August 2011

5 Diamond postures. Dropping back, Kapotasana (backbending)

NB: Ramaswami marks each of the postures in his book with 1-5 diamonds depending on the challenge.

One of the things that's troubled me about Vinyasa Krama ( oh yes, it's not just Ashtanga I have problems with) is how to work on challenging postures/areas of practice.

In Ashtanga it's kind of straight forward, you do the same postures everyday so your constantly working on the same area of difficulty. If/when you get stuck at the Marichiyasana twists or at Supta Kurmasana, or Kapotasana or the Leg behind head postures, you just keep plugging away at them until you get they get a little easier, more comfortable

In Vinyasa Krama, however, we're seeking to cover a wider range of asana. We also have some key postures to practice daily, paschimottanasana, maha mudra, the inversions, time is often a concern. How to cover a wide range of postures and yet still work on the same ....challenging areas.

Ramaswami mentions difficult/challenging vinyasa in his September 2009 Newsletter .

  • In about six months to one year of consistent practice one would be comfortable with the system, the  sequences and especially the required synchronous breathing. This would complete the learning process. 
  • Then one may prepare a green list of asanas and vinyasas one would be able to do and wants to practice regularly. 
  • There will be another list, amber list which would contain  those vinyasas which are difficult now but one would like to practice them even if they are somewhat imperfect. 
  • Then there would be another red list which will contain procedures that are not appropriate or possible for the practitioner—which could probably be taken up in the next janma. 
These are perhaps the four and five diamond marked postures in his book although.

Lets take backbending and in particular kapotasana and dropping back, both five diamond postures in Ramaswami's book. The former comes up in the Meditative sequence (p182) the latter in the On your Feet sequence (p20). I learned my dropbacks in ashtanga and tend to do a handful of them every morning, they're good prep for the more extreme backbends like Kapotanasana, so even if I'm only doing Bow sequence once a week I still feel I'm not losing any facility. I wonder though, how I would have worked towards them in Vinyasa Krama. How I would have been able to put in the time required to nail them in the first place

Two key elements to backbending come to mind. The first is obvious, improving flexibility along the full length of your back, the second is hip flexibility and strength, being able to push your hips forward as far as possible, this takes a lot of strain off your back and basically 'doubles' the effectiveness of your backbend, supercharges it. So to keep up my current backbend facility or for anyone working towards them we want to find places in Vinyasa Krama where we can work on these areas, if possible,  every day.

Tadasana is nice prep, those behind the back hand variations with the back stretch are nice dropback prep, very similar to some of the hang back exercises I used to do when I was learning to drop back.

The big thing in Dropping back is getting the hips forward and that's something you can work on with some of the supine exercises, variations of which come up after most forward bending subroutines as counterposes. Urdhava Danurasana is pretty much a must and makes an excellent counter after the shoulderstand your going to be doing every day anyway.

Armed with these postures we're going to be working towards dropping back, strengthening our hips and preparing ourselves for any of the more extreme backbends and generally keeping the backbending facility ticking over nicely.

For more backbending ideas, tips, hints, suggestions there's fifty odd posts on my other blog Ashtanga vinyasa krama at home. Take a look at THIS post, for dropbacks, or THIS, for Kapotasana, take a note of the date that most resembles where you currently are in your backbends and look for posts on backbending around that time in the archive on the right of the blog.

Here's a video that looks at dropping back and preparing for it with Vinyasa Krama postures/subroutines, it isn't intended as a sequence but just relates to the above.

NB: Just noticed I'm doing a kind of Ashtanga approach to dropping back here. In Ramaswami;s book he has you stretch up and then continue over into the dropback.

another NB : just noticed too, that there are some other differences from Ashtanga re the dropback. you come up on the exhale and your feet are together throughout! See the next post  HERE


  1. The "very question" I wanted to ask... :)

  2. Thought I might do a series of posts on the four and five diamond postures, Leg behind head postures next perhaps.

  3. Great post! What do you suggest for hip strengthening? And how can you tell if yours are strong or not?! I think mine are weak cos I can't do purvottanasana easily but I'm not sure!

  4. Thanks Micqui.
    Was thinking about your question at work today.
    My first though when you mentioned hip strengtheners were some of the Asymmetric series poses, the Janu Sirsasana type postures and then the Badha konsana vinyasas from seated but then I thought they're more hip openers. Then I remembered you mentioned purvottanasana which reminded me of all those hip lifting postures in the Supine series. The whole first half of that series would be excellent, it's exhausting though, kind of OK at the time but you'll feel it the following morning. Perhaps you can work a couple of subroutines from that series into your practice. here's a link to my practice sheets,
    I'm thinking the first three practice sheets ( not the posters) although the shoulderstand and headstand vinyasas are probably good too and a little lighter.
    Video's of the supine sequence are on the right of that blog

    Nice question thank you, will do a post on it.

  5. And what about the Locust (Salabhasana) and the bow (Dhanurasana) in the Bow sequence? I'm not sure, Locust it is about the lower back and the muscles around the spine, but the bow focuses also on the thighs - well basically I'm asking and not suggesting...

  6. I guess so K will have a think when I do Bow sequence next week. Does beg the question what it means to talk about strengthening an area like the hips, I thought the one legged squats might be useful too. Micqui pins it down a bit though by mentioning purvottanasana and a particular action of the hips.

  7. btw Bow sequence, we had our first "meeting" this morning - is it only me who finds it really hard? Especially breathing, I hope sooner or later I will be able to focus only on the breath.