Karandavasana — in my case, the falling duck…

So, I have been working on karandavasana for the past 2 months now, after finally being able to secure a stable Pincha Mayurasana for about 10 breaths, before exiting into chataranga. In Pincha, I kick up and imagine stacking my spine and then my sit-bones right above my head, trusting gravity a little bit. I feel my back bend into the balance point, just far enough not to topple and feel as if I could be suspended there for a little while. Meanwhile, I feel the weight down my arms and into my elbows as they press into the ground. It has helped to visualize this…though sometimes, when I’m tired, I fight a little harder to keep from falling…

The exit is tough in the fact that you have to shift your arms back into chataranga while the legs fall back. Andrew told me that in Mysore, Sharath would not let students advance unless if they got this part right. Well, I can shift my arms back into chataranga (versus just letting my arms stay stationary and letting the legs fall back), but it’s hard on my right foot — somehow, all the weight seems to land on it, and sometimes little bones shift or pop. But so far I have been able to walk and run alright without pain, so that is good. Today, somehow, I managed to land a bit lighter, though I am not exactly sure how I managed that.

As many of you Ashtangis know, Karandavasana is another one of those gateway poses in the Second Series. It has been the most formidable pose I have encountered thus far, and I have heard that it takes years to master. Being female, I have the luxury of not having to come back up by myself…but at this stage, just getting my legs into lotus upside down is an amazing challenge!!

(It also does not help to have a knee problem, which I got through being too overzealous in Supta Vajrasana. At one point, I could hang onto my feet in lotus while bending back, but now I need David or Andrew’s assistance, which is a regression. I know that yoga is not just about poses or getting them right, but I can’t help feeling a sense of failure when I cannot hold onto my lotus-bound feet as I bend back).

It seems like there are several stages to Karandavasana:

  • First, I need to get a good Pincha — without the stable base, nothing else will happen.
  • Second — getting the feet into full lotus. So, this week, I managed to manuever and tuck my feet into lotus, while feeling as if I may topple over at any second. So I really had to pay attention to how my core felt, and REALLY engage the bandhas while I coax my legs and feet into lotus. It is lotus but not very tight. Sometimes my feet splay out and I have to start the whole damn thing all over again. At this point, David or Andrew come close by and watch. More often than not, they help me tuck into a better lotus. 
  • Third — dropping (in my case, falling!) to duck. Yesterday I bent halfway before losing it. At this point, David or Andrew have to help me and there is SO much happening in terms of movement that my brain gets really confused. I know I need to tuck in my stomach but then I feel my lotus bound legs falling fast toward the ground!! Somehow, with my teachers’ assistance, I barely manage to get my knees to rest on my arms. At this point, I’m breathing really hard and see sweat pour down my forehead onto my yoga blanket…
  • Fourth — lifting back up. I really don’t know how people do this without assistance. Even with help, I feel so much dead weight, I grunt and groan (like a big, gnarly truck driver, or worse yet, a B-rated porn movie — not like I watch those!!)…while others beside me look or chuckle.
  • Fifth — releasing back into Pincha, then jumping back into chataranga. By this point, I am totally SPENT!!!

Well, you can’t post about Karandavasana without a video on how it’s really supposed to be done. So, here’s a tribute to my fellow friend and yogi Jessica’s lovely video and demonstration on how even a woman can lift back up without assistance:

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