September Pose of the Month - Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

Vinyasa pose of the Month – Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

Eka = One
pada = Leg or foot
Koundinya = the name of a sage

Eka Pada Koundinyasana is a twisting arm balance. It is traditionally entered into from tripod headstand but you can also get into it from Side Crow or Revolved Side Angle. And, if you know me, there are ways to prop yourself into the pose so that you can get a feel for the posture. This pose, like all of the poses named after sages are challenging, but they can be broken down step by step and made approachable.

Since Tripod Headstand and Side Crow are entry points to this pose, you will definitely see these poses in class this month. But it is possible to break the pose down into even simpler parts.

The two main components of this pose are the twist and the arm balance. We can begin to work on basic twists; everything from simple Seated Twist, Lunge Twist, Revolved Chair Pose, Revolved Triangle, Revolved Side Angle, Standing Hand to Big Toe Pose Twist, Lying Hand to Big Toe Pose Twist and Intense Stomach Churning Pose.

To develop the arm balance we need to work on strength in poses like all of the Plankvariations, Caturanga, Crow, Side Crow, Lolasana, Tolasana and Tripod Headstand.

Another aspect of what is required from you to do the pose is a conscious level of engagement. One of the ways I learned this was through the topics of Muscular Energy and Organic Energy. Muscular Energy is the ability to hug the muscles towards the bone, to draw in towards the midline and to draw into a central focal point. This is the ability to consciously engage the muscles. It involves strength. But it needs to be balanced by Organic Energy which is the ability to extend outward from a central focal point, away from the midline and out to the tips of the extremities. Muscular Energy and Organic energy need to balance each other in every pose. Muscular energy provides stability and boundaries, but unless it is balanced with Organic Energy it can cause contraction and hardening. Organic Energy provides lightness and space. If it is not balanced with Muscular Energy it can cause over-extension and instability.

This ability to engage all of your body parts in a pose is challenging and the sign of an advanced practice. It is that proprioceptive sense to know what the leg up in the air in Half Moon Pose is doing while you are trying to maintain your balance. This is exactly what is necessary to the next level in poses. I sometime say, "Imagine you are a statue and I could pick you up and move you from one spot to another and your pose wouldn't fall apart."

This is the sort of thing we work on when you lift one leg in Down Dog Split and the rest of your pose doesn't waiver. To work on this quality we will play with leg variations in Tripod Headstand. When you lower one leg towards the floor in Tripod Headstand, the other leg maintains its position while reaching up. If the leg that is reaching moved with the leg that is lowering, you would fall to the floor. It is the reaching leg that balances the lowering leg much like a seesaw.

The Benefits of Eka Pada Koundinyasana

Like all twists, this pose massages the abdominal organs. The spinal twist rejuvenates the spine. The arm balance actions strengthen the arms and neck.

You can see that whether you do the full pose or not, there are plenty of actions, principles and easier poses to work on along the way. Also, while working on the pose you will reap the benefits of the pose.

I can't wait to get started. I'll see you in class!

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