Many moons ago I had the privilege of spending an extended period studying yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India. During my time there I made it a point to watch Yogacharya Iyengar practice whenever possible. I not only observed the form of his body but also the way he practiced, how he moved from one pose to another, and the way he worked in the individual asanas. I was fascinated by how he continued to refine his art. Bear in mind that B.K.S. Iyengar is the author of Light on Yoga, and he had been practicing for over 50 years at the time. Still, like a master artist, he polished his poses as if his body were a dynamic sculpture.
|Sacral nutation - exaggerated for effect.|
One day, as fate would have it, I was the only other person in the practice hall and Master Iyengar was going through his backbend sequence (picture the most advanced backbends from Light on Yoga to get an idea). I sat on the staircase and watched. He finished, and as he was getting dressed asked if I would like to go with him to visit some people around the city. The next thing I knew, I was in the back of a car speaking with Mr. Iyengar. I mentioned that he still worked to improve his poses, even though he was a master of the art. He gave me a somewhat surprised look, as if to say, “Of course I am!”
This is a characteristic of masters in any discipline. Even when they have achieved excellence, they still look for incremental improvement. One of the great things about yoga is that we can always work to improve our postures. In this week’s series, we use Uttanasana to illustrate this technique.
|Anterior (front) and posterior (back) views of the sacroiliac joint with ligaments.|
The sacroiliac joint is one of the most stable in the body due to the stout ligaments that surround it. It doesn’t move much—some say it doesn’t move at all. The movement that is available is called “nutation,” which means nodding (as in nodding your head). In nutation the sacrum tilts forward just a little bit between the iliac crests. We can use this movement to deepen forward bends such as Uttanasana. This adds some incremental forward bending from within the pelvis, rather than the lumbar spine, and aids to protect the spine from hyperflexion.
Think about the sacroiliac joint and nutation. Tune in tomorrow and I’ll show you a tip on how to use this movement to improve Uttanasana by engaging the tensor fascia lata and gluteus medius. Also, take a moment to browse through our new books on the right side of the page to learn more about combining Western science with the art of yoga…