I don’t think that anyone ever looks forward to Kapotasana with unbridled eagerness.
Whenever I come up to this pose, I think, “Okay, here we go…” and say a little prayer to myself (aka, please don’t hurt me too much).
That being said, I do believe that one can arrive at this posture without the usual amounts of dread. Getting enough sleep is a good prerequisite. If I don’t sleep well, then forget it. I will just try the best that I can. Sometimes even getting enough sleep does not help. Sometimes the body is just stiffer for some reason.
This is just a little disclaimer: I’m not an authorized teacher from KPJAYI, nor even a registered yoga teacher (yet), so don’t take these words too seriously. I guess I just offer them from my own limited experience, and if it helps, then that is wonderful. If it doesn’t, then hopefully there is trusted teacher who can take you where you need to go.
Prepping in the very beginning
- I begin prepping for Kapo at the very beginning, meaning that even in the Surya Namaskaras A and B, I engage every muscle as fully as I can, with full, slow, even breathing. This tends to make my body warmer and looser. I’ve found that when I’ve rushed through the Surya Namaskaras and standing poses for sake of time, Kapotasana suffers. A LOT.
- When I arrive at Ustrasana (Camel Pose), I begin to open my back and hips more. For me, what helped was not so much stretching my back, but really opening my hips as I begin these back bends.
- As I bend back, I imagine keeping my hips as straight as possible toward the ceiling, while opening my upper chest. I try to avoid pressure on the lower back due to a surfing injury many years ago to this area.
- I maintain this opening of the hip flexors and upper back while engaging in Lagho Vajrasana, trying to open the chest as much as I can while opening the hips. I feel that this reduces the torque and pressure on the lower back.
Bending back with open hips
- When beginning Kapo, I set my hips a certain distance. Too close or too far away would be disastrous. But I gauge the level of openness I feel in my hips as I begin to shift my weight forward. In Led Intermediate, Sharath did not allow us to take 5 full breaths before going down in Kapo. But in my own mysore practice, I prep myself mentally before bending. I have my hands in prayer while taking long, full breaths, imagining that I am stirring the needed fire and warmth in my body before undertaking this pose.
- At the last breath, I begin the drop down. I try to keep my hips as straight as possible, and open my upper back. If I can see the tips of my feet as I curl back, that is a good sign. If not, I try bending my upper back more. If I touch the floor before I see my feet, then it is a struggle. But if I can spot my feet as I curl back, that bodes well.
Building interoceptive awareness: monitoring your own discomfort and maintaining equanimity
- I monitor my level of discomfort, always. Kapotasana is rarely “comfortable”. I back off with sharp pain — that is the body saying, “STOP.” And again, it’s somewhat intuitive. Sometimes you can push a bit, sometimes not.
- I think that Kapo also demands flexibility of the shoulder joints. As you land, it feels as if there is a lot of pressure on the shoulder joints as you try to grip your feet. I try to land with as much space between my back and the mat, creating a wide arc with the spine. Meanwhile, the shoulders have to be flexible enough for you to reach your feet.
- I crawl my fingers along the mat until I reach my heels, and then grip (for dear life).
- Mentally, I focus on the one-pointedness of the posture. There is a space, between discomfort and imminent relief, where one could remain suspended. I focus on this space. Five breaths. I slow the breaths as much as I can.
- Release into Kapo B…hands along the feet, on a good day.
- Last, releasing back into prayer position with hands, as you stand upright on your knees. This calls for a good amount of strength and exertion from, once again, the hips.
I don’t think that I will ever look forward to Kapotasana like I may to certain other poses, but I feel that there are ways to make it a tad bit easier. What I’ve discovered is that, contrary to what I originally thought), Kapotasana can happen more readily with the opening of the hips and upper back, rather than the lower back. I am sure that this may vary with others, so I am very curious to your experiences! For those of you who incorporate Kapo in your practice, what has helped you the most? I — and probably many others — would love to know!