By Louise Vas, with the guidance of Dr.Yogananth Andiappan
Poses demonstrated by Cherry Man Lai
In this very first column for Asana Journal in July 2014, we have shared Eka Pada Dandasana. What happens when we bring this famed pose into a lifted, flying variation? It becomes Eka Danda Galavasana. We have also shared two of variations to Galavasana in past years, namely Urdhva Galavasana or Flying Crow Pose (June 2016) and Parivrtta Galavasana or Revolved Flying Crow Pose (February 2017). Combining the key elements of these three mentioned poses brings us to an advanced practice mentally, physically, and emotionally.
The below warm-up poses focus on improving the rotational movement of the torso (twisting), hip flexion and hip extension.
Parivrtta Eka Dandasana / Revolved Onelegged Staff Pose variation
1. Sit on the floor with legs straight and both hands behind the hips.
2. Bring the left ankle to the right thigh, just above the right knee. The left knee is pointing sideways.
3. Bend the right leg and flatten the foot on the floor, so that the left leg is raised and moves closer the abdomen.
4. Raise the left arm. Inhale and on exhale, twist to the right and bring the left upper arm locking and pressing against the sole of the left foot.
5. Lift the spine and hold the right foot with the left hand. Inhale and lengthen the spine, then exhale to twist deeper to the right, bringing the chin towards the same direction as the right shoulder.
Utthan Pristhasana / Lizard Pose Variation
1. From tabletop position, bring the right foot forward, coming into a lunge position. Keep the right foot flat with the ankle directly under the knee.
2. Slide the left leg back and keep the knee on the floor, coming into a low lunge.
3. Bring the left elbow to the floor, while the right arm goes over the right shin to reach for the ankle.
4. Slide the back leg a bit more to allow the hips flexors to stretch.
5. Inhale an on exhale, bring the forehead to the floor. Hold the pose for a few breaths.
6. Release the pose by coming up to the hands, and practice the same pose with the left leg in front.
The below practice creates space in the wrist joint to allow better movement of the hand during the arm balance of Eka Danda Galavasana.
1. Come down to the floor on the hand and knees, similar to tabletop pose.
2. Rotate the wrists outwards so that the fingers are pointing towards the knees. Maintain both arms straight.
3. Inhale and on exhale, bring the hips back and feel the stretch to the back of the wrists. Hold for a few breaths.
4. Repeat several times by moving in and out of the pose together with the breath.
The below poses strengthen the shoulders, abdomen and back in preparation for the arm balancing and lifting component of Eka Danda Galavasana.
Forearm Plank Pose
1. Come into Sphinx Pose with the elbows as wide as the shoulders, legs slightly wider than hip-width and toes curled.
2. Expand the shoulder blades. Inhale and on exhale, press the elbows on the floor and raise the body away from the floor, coming into a half-plank.
3. Hold the pose for a few regular breaths.
4. Slowly lower the body to the floor to come out of the pose.
Utthita Dandasana / Upward Plank Pose
1. From tabletop position with the hands and knees on the floor, lift the knees and extend the legs back, coming into a push-up position.
2. Keep the arms straight below the shoulders and expand the shoulder blades. Keep the whole body active, lifting the body with the pelvis tilting forward/ scooping in, towards the abdomen.
3. Hold the pose for 3 breaths and return to tabletop position. Repeat for a few more times.
Navasana / Boat pose
1. Sit with the legs bent and thighs closer to the abdomen.
2. Inhale and on exhale, extend the arms to shoulder level and lean back. Keep the chest and chin lifted.
3. Keeping the body balanced, slowly lift and straighten the legs, coming to sit on the tailbone.
4. Point the toes and keep the gaze upwards. Hold for a few breaths and slowly come out of the pose.
Practice the below to have a better understanding of the muscles involved in the final pose.
Come into Parivrtta Eka Dandasana with the right leg on top of the left. The right arm is pressed against the sole of the right foot. The right hand reaches back to hold the right knee. Slowly move the right leg away from the left leg, locking the right foot under the armpit and bringing the knee to the floor. Bend the left knee with the foot flat on the floor and place the left wrist on the knee in cin mudra.
1. Sit on the floor with the hands behind the hips. Bring the left ankle to the right thigh. Bend the right leg and move the legs closer to the abdomen.
2. Raise the left arm. Inhale and on exhale, twist to the right and bring the left upper arm locking and pressing against the sole of the left foot. Place both hands on the floor for support.
3. Lean forward and lower the shoulders. With the elbows starting to bend, lift the hips and go with the forward movement of the torso.
4. Move the right leg and bring the knee to the floor. Keep the left foot near the left armpit.
5. Curl the right toes and lift the right knee off the floor, raising the torso and straightening the arms slightly.
Engage the shoulders and slowly lean forward to place the right side of the waist to the right upper arm while the right leg raises off the floor. Keep the gaze forward and hold for a few light breaths.
There are many ways an asana can be performed or interpreted depending on each practitioner, and classic Hatha Yoga text suggests that there are over 8 Million poses.
Below is a variation of Eka Danda Galavasana, focusing on the twisting movement of the torso.
From Step 3 above with the right foot supporting the body weight, slowly lean forward and bend the elbows. Engage the shoulders, lift the right foot off the floor and straighten the leg.
The below modification is available to practitioners challenged by the lifting motion.
Neutralizing movements are important for long-term injury prevention; it allows the body to return to its neutral position. Be aware of pressure alert points and listen to your body – do neutralizing movements after slowly coming out of the pose.
While seated, bring both legs in front and bend the knees. Place the hands behind the hips. Slowly drop both knees down to the right side and look to the left. Bring both knees up and slowly drop knees to the left side, looking to the right. Repeat a few more times.
While in Vajrasana, bring the back of the wrists touching, in front of the chest. Inhale and on exhale, lower the shoulders and elbows. Hold for a few breaths and release the hands.
The below counter poses will relieve any tension created in the wrists and torso
Hold the left fingers with the right hand in front of the chest with the elbows open to the sides and shoulders relaxed. Inhale and on exhale, gently pull on the fingers. Hold for 3 counts and release; do the same stretch on the other hand.
Seated chest opening
Sit in Vajrasana with the back straight. Rotate the shoulders outwards and interlock the fingers behind the hips. Inhale and on exhale, push the shoulders away from the ears, then outstretch and straighten the arms. Push the chest out and lift the chin. Stay for a few light breaths and release the pose. Repeat for two more times.
In our yoga journey, the term “advanced” has a subjective meaning. To one person it could mean being able to sit on the floor with legs crossed and knees resting on the floor; to someone else, it could mean being able to be still and in meditation for an hour. The beauty of yoga is that we are always where we need to be, at that mindset, time and place. There is no rush to gain enlightenment or “Bodhi”. There are no shortcuts, and what is needed from us is a humble dedication to receive grace and wisdom. When lifting ourselves in Eka Danda Galavasana, practice not just the physical element but also the mental aspect. Raising our awareness and opening ourselves to the infinite possibilities will benefit not just our practice, but us, wholly. As always, seek the guidance of an experienced teacher and take every step of your yoga practice positively.