This past weekend, I got to teach an urban Anusara Yoga Immersion retreat. We began by setting intentions, as we always do, and what I said was that I wanted to fall in love all over again.
The thing is, every time I go back into the basics of this practice, I fall in love with it again. It’s because every time I return to the teachings, they seem to be ever-new. They continue to blossom and offer new insights.
This time around, it was the rediscovery of that magical juncture point between the pelvic and kidney loops that creating that blossoming.
- Open to Grace: In order to fall in love, you have to be open to it. This principle invites us into the invitation to more by expanding the inside and softening our outer edges.
- Muscle Energy: The more that’s there is only as available to us as our own capacity to engage. I love thinking of Muscle Energy as drawing us from the periphery of life to the very core and essence. It hugs the muscles to the bones, draws the limbs to the midline, and connects the peripheral parts to the core (focal point).
- Thigh Loop sets the tops of the thighs back into the hip sockets, and really must be established first before we can access the expansion of the back body that comes with the next two loops.
- Pelvic Loop and Kidney Loop: Something magical happens at the juncture between these two loops. When the waistline flows back, the energy splits downward and upward, and the back body experiences a powerful expansion. The pelvic loop side of this draws the waistline back and down toward the bottom of the sacrum (pelvic focal point), presses the bottom of the sacrum forward, and then lifts the lower belly in and up. The Kidney Loop starts at the same place, drawing the waistline back and then lifting the back ribs up toward the heart focal point, where it presses forward and then softens down the front ribs.
- Organic Energy: And when this magic opens up, you can’t help but fall in love again. It’s expressed by extending from the active focal point back out to the periphery.
- Tadasana: Let’s begin by mapping the loops and this magical expansion of the back body. In tadasana, settle with gravity into the earth and then charge the legs fully by lifting the toes and drawing energy from the feet all the way up the legs into the core of the pelvis. Press the tops of the thighs back until they are in line over your ankles. Now breathe into the back waistline, drawing back from the middle of the lumbar region toward the back plane of the body. Here the energy splits with the pelvic loop going down and the kidney loop moving up. To feel the pelvic loop, slide one hand down your sacrum until you get to the bottom of the sacrum (that will be just above the thickest part of the buttocks. Bring your other hand to the front plane of the body, in line with the bottom of the sacrum; that’s where the pelvic loop rises up in the front body. Keeping the waistline sliding back, draw down toward the bottom of the sacrum and then press forward, so that the lower belly lifts up. Keeping that, now add the Kidney Loop. It also starts in the middle of the lumbar and flows back, and then moves up the back, lifting the back ribs (use your other hand on your back to encourage this lift), then flowing forward through the base of the heart and releasing the front ribs down. To feel the magical opening of the back body, use one hand to draw the bottom of the sacrum down and in, and the other hand to lift the back ribs up. This is the place of expansion.
- High lunge: Start with both hands clasped on the front thigh and pause and soften. Then engage the legs fully, especially the back leg, so that the top of the thigh bone sets back into the hip sockets. Now pressing into your hands, breathe into the back waistline, that place where we can expand into moreness. Then split the energy down through the bottom of the sacrum and up through the back ribs. The lower belly should tone from the action of the Pelvic Loop, and the Kidney Loop creates a simultaneous softening of the front body.
- Surya Namaskar with Rajakapotasana variation: This is one of my favorite ways to practice surya namaskar. Instead of doing plank to caturanga, bring your knees to the floor in plank pose, and then lift your feet off the floor, heels toward your hips. Flex your feet and press your knees into the floor. Then lower down into Rajakapotasana Prep pose by activating the pelvic and kidney loops.
- Prasarita Padottanasana:
- Virabhadarasna 2, Parsvakonasana, Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana: In all of the standing poses, emphasizing the expansion of the back body creates a powerful opening.
- Vrksasana, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana: I love the standing balances for feeling this place of opening in the back body. In tree pose, use your foot on your upper inner thigh to set the top of the standing thigh back; then hold that steady as you sweep the sides of the waistline back to initiate the pelvic and kidney loops. The expansion of the back body will create a nice support for taking vrksasana into a backbend. In UHP, the same actions apply, and will help make space in the front hip for a forward bend variation.
- Pigeon: The form with the front shin parallel to the front of the mat (and foot flexed) will be a more powerful place to feel these actions and to prep for Eka Pada Galavasana. Start by settling into the pose with the hips square, and then spread the toes on the front foot into the earth to help tone the outer shin and allow the inner thigh to release. Now use your forearms pressing into the earth to help you lift up at the back waistline area; from there, extend down through the bottom of the sacrum as the back ribs lift. You’ll feel space open up in the front hip, so the belly and pelvis aren’t resting on the front thigh. This will help as you now try…
- Eka Pada Galavasana: As in pigeon pose above, use these two loops to make space in the front hip, so you’re not just resting there. It will help you lift off.
- Anjaneyasana with a thigh stretch
- Ustrasana: In the backbends, creating an expansion at the magical juncture point of the pelvic and kidney loops will create support for the lower back and and a foundation for a deeper backbend in the upper back. In the setup for ustrasana, bring one hand (soft fist) to the sacrum and one hand to the lower ribs, to encourage the split of energy that happens in the back body. Then keep that space as you release the hands and move into the pose. Use these actions to keep length in the spine while coming out of the pose.
- Supta Virasana: It’s common for the lower back to be over-arched in supta virasana, and this can cause compression. To access the expansion and length of the back body through the pelvic and kidney loops, come into the pose and then lift your pelvis off the floor. With the pelvis suspended and the legs strongly engaged, sweep the sides of the waistline back and then extend from there down through the bottom of the sacrum and up through the back ribs. With that length, place the pelvis back on the floor.
- TMP, Krounchasana, Janu Sirsasana, Upavista Konasana: In all of the seated forward bends, opening the back body through the pelvic and kidney loops will keep the spine long and make space in the front of the hips.
- Pascimottanasana: In particular, pascimottanasana is a great place to access these loops. Start in a prep power where you’re holding the tops of the feet and the spine is more in an upright position, rather than in a forward bend. Ground the tops of the femurs into the earth until you feel that it lifts the top of the sacrum in and up. Keeping the thighs grounded and the spine more upright, now expand back into the back waistline and split the energy down and up to fuel the pelvic and kidney loops. This will create a huge lift out of the front of the pelvis. Keeping that, extend into the pose.