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Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose

I fall into my yoga practice with relish akin to getting into bed at the end of a long day. Many people start their practice with a series of asanas such as Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) to warm the body up, but I usually start by lying over a bolster that I've placed under my back.

At first glance lying down on a bolster may seem like a strange way to prepare for active asanas. Bolsters are more commonly used as preparations in restorative practices or, occasionally, to prepare for backbends. But work with bolster has deeper gifts to give.  

I discovered these gifts some years ago when I went through a long series of discouraging injuries. For several months, my yoga practice consisted entirely of lying over restorative bolsters. I especially like using a bolster to support a fairly deep backbend. To my delight, this position enforced an introspection that revealed sensations and feelings I had never experienced in all my years of yoga. More than ever before,I found myself aware of my breath and of how its rhythm created subtle internal currents previously concealed beneath the familiar effort of the asanas.

Over time, this inner focus helped me to overcome my injuries. But as the flowing internal movement worked its way to the surface and I returned to more active asanas, I was determined to maintain my newfound internal awareness. Years later, I still rely on bolster work to set the tone for my practice and to help me understand challenging asanas.

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

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


© 2001 Barbara Benagh
Reprinted from Yoga Journal