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Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose


Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
Before going further toward Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, you should be able to practice Urdhva Dhanurasana with straight arms and Sirsana I (Head Balance) without strain. If you meet these prerequisites, you're ready. Here we go!

Prepare as for Urdhva Dhanurasana: Lie on your back, feet on the floor, heels under the knees, and step your feet a little wider than your hips. Bend your arms and place your palms on the floor by your ears, fingertips facing the shoulders, and shoulder width apart. Pause for a moment to focus and tune in to your breathing. As you exhale, extend your calves and back thighs to pull your hips, shoulders, and head from the floor as you straighten your elbows. As before, rotate your upper shoulderblades toward your tailbone to lift your shoulders and lighten the load on your arms.

Since you probably won't be able to hold this asana for very long, corrective actions need to be done quickly and decisively. Bend your arms and place the crown of your head on the floor between your hands and feet, keeping your elbows shoulder width apart and directly over your wrists. To insure that your neck does not become compressed, exhale, press your hands into the floor, and again rotate your top shoulderblades toward your tailbone. Keep your chest open and lifted. On your next exhalation, bend one arm and slide your hand past your ear to cup the back of your head. Repeat the same action with the other arm, interlacing your fingers behind your head. (You may be more successful in these arm movements if you lift onto your tiptoes.)

With a powerful exhalation, press down through your elbows and lift your chest to raise your head off the floor. As your head lifts bring your heels down. Of course, your head may seem glued to the floor; if that's the case, continue to hold the pose where you are. If you do manage to lift your head the pose may actually become easier, since this movement allows your shoulders to extend. But be careful not to strain the shoulder joints by them pushing them beyond your elbows. Avoid this overextension by keeping your weight evenly distributed between your elbows and wrists, and by not allowing your elbows to drift more than shoulder width apart. It is absolutely fine to remain in this position, with your head raised and your feet directly below your knees. In the full pose, however, you move the feet away from the torso, plant your feet, and exhale as you stretch your calves and push to straighten the legs completely; then you place the crown of your head back on the floor inside the cup of your hands. Extend your elbows into the floor and rotate your top shoulderblades toward your tailbone to help your shoulders stay lifted. Your middle back will be asked to bend more deeply.

Now is the time to fully incorporate the inner quality you found during your time over the bolster. Don't lose your internal focus in the challenge of the moment. Do your best to maintain a steady breath rate. Use your breath, like a heart, to pump movement that reverberates through you, extending on your inhalation, opening on your exhalation, and softening hard edges to create a pose that is strong and peaceful.

Come out of this asana with great attention. First, walk your feet back under your knees. Continuing to balance on your head and lift your shoulders, return your palms to the floor next to your ears. Again check to make sure your hands are directly under your elbows. Push with your hands to lift the head, and tuck your chin and tailbone in as you roll your spine back down to the floor, tailbone touching last. Consciously slow your breathing down until you are once again at rest and can feel the powerful calm that is the product of balanced backbends.

Of course, such a dynamic pose as this will make you awareóperhaps painfully soóthat asking the body to be flexible and strong simultaneously is a tall order. Difficult as these demands may be, they present an opportunity to maintain an asana using the skills of introspection, breathing, and surrenderóskills that eventually transform a pose from an impossibility or an exercise in brute strength into a lucid, precise, poised asana. Practicing with this focus leads to sthira sukkha (steady comfort, Patanjali's definition of asana), a state in which the fluctuations of the mind have stilled and one finds a state of immense clarity that shines forth from the within. 25-45 word bio needed, preferably one we can use all year.


Benefits
• Increase spine and shoulder flexibility
• Strengthens and invigorates the whole body
• Improves respiration
• Builds confidence
• Develops humility

Contraindications
• Spinal nerve damage and disc problems
• Chronic shoulder dislocations
• Pregnancy
• Unmanaged high blood pressure
• Retina problems

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© 2001 Barbara Benagh
Reprinted from Yoga Journal