|Tittibhasana: The Firefly Pose
by Barbara Benagh
The Launching Pad
There are a number of asanas that can specifically pave the way for Tittibhasana. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), a staple in nearly everyone’s yoga practice, is great for developing the upper body and arm strength that you need for arm balances. For many of us, strength isn't the only challenge in Tittibhasana; poor flexibility in the hips and spine can present an even greater hurdle. Let’s look at several asanas that can help you to increase suppleness in these obstinate areas.
When we first learn forward bends, we often tend to incorrectly bend from the waist rather than correctly rotating the pelvis forward; we may not yet know any better, and the incorrect movement is certainly easier. Since continuing to bend that way will eventually weaken the lower back, teachers quite properly try to prevent damage by encouraging students to elongate the lumbar spine. Unfortunately, novices too often tighten their muscles along the spine as the attempt to draw it forward. In my opinion, this action is an over-correction that can result in the lower spine becoming habitually rigid and can also cause lower back strain in many asanas. A more appropriate is to engage your lower back muscles just enough to create a gentle toning that allows the spine space to safely adapt, whether is be lengthening, arching, twisting or, in the case of arm balances, rounding. A more appropriate action is a happy medium between under-and overworking the back muscles, a gentle toning that allows the spine freedom to safely adapt whether it is asked to lengthen, arch, twist, or, in the case of arm balances, to round.
A very simple yet potent asana to create more flexibility and awareness in rounding your spine is a variation of Balasana (Child’s Pose) in which the forehead is brought to the knees. Begin by sitting on your heels and bending forward to rest your forehead on the floor, keeping your arms at your sides. In this simple forward bend your breathing will slow down; the exhalation will naturally extend as your back muscles gently lengthen and widen. As your body settles into the pose, notice the rhythm of your breath in your back body and the sensation of movement your breath creates. Let the breath's gentle massage undo tension in the back muscles and help the spine lengthen toward the tailbone. This simple release is a powerful demonstration that movement can be generated as much by letting go as by effort. As your back relaxes, rest your abdomen on your thighs and let the femur bones sink toward the heels. This last movement anchors your weight at the base of the spine, counteracting the tendency to be top-heavy, focus awareness only in your head, and, thus, cut off from your belly. The belly must be alive and aware if you are to do arm balances well!
Still in Balasana, without lifting your chest off your legs, place your hands behind your head and pull your forehead as close to your knees as possible, exploring a deeper rounding of the back. Many yogis tend to bend their backs by rounding strongly in the upper spine while remaining stiff and dull in the lumbar region. If you keep your chest on your knees you really have no alternative but to wake up your lower back muscles. Certainly you shouldn’t force this rounding, but you should expect to feel a sensation of resistance in the muscles running along your spine and perhaps also in those running across your mid-back. Once again, use the rhythm of your breathing to help undo muscle tension throughout the back body. Also, consciously lengthen your whole spine. I like an image well-known yoga teacher Victor Van Kooten uses to evoke this action. Imagine that each vertebra from the skull to the tail is a sneaker, and let them walk, heel to toes, down your back. I think this image works well because it encourages a subtle awareness of each vertebra's independent movement.
As you remain in Balasana, accept the gentle rounding the pose encourages. Your lower back will gradually adapt, leaving you with a broad back and a sense that your abdominal organs expand back to fill and support your pelvis.
• Strengthens upper body, arms, and wrists
• Tones abdominal organs and muscles
• Improves concentration and coordination
• Carpal tunnel syndrome and similar repetitive stress injuries
• Acute sacro-lumbar strain
© 2001 Barbara Benagh