|Tittibhasana: The Firefly Pose
by Barbara Benagh
Once you're made any necessary adjustments to protect your wrists and forearms, there are two keys to successful transferring your weight: plan your move carefully and make it decisively. Several actions must take place simultaneously. You must activate your arms and grow your fingers into the floor; this action creates reliable support. You must make a strong effort to keep your shoulders over your fingertips, to keep your chest broad, and to generate heat and support in the lower abdomen by drawing your pubic and tail bones together. If your shoulders shift back or your hips drop, you will fall. And you must also press your knees into your shoulders so that your legs don't slide down your arms.
Focusing on all these actions, exhale strongly and shift your weight to your hands. Keep your toes on the floor and stare straight ahead (Figure 3). Congratulations! If you didn't fall over, you have established a secure base and are now ready to lift the legs and balance completely on your arms.
Maintain a steady breathing rhythm, making sure your exhalation is as long as your inhalation. Continuing to look forward, squeeze your upper arms with your legs and strongly extend your arms into the floor. On an exhalation, again engage your pubic and tail bones toward each other to firm your abdomen and support the lift of your hips. Maintain this lift as you raise your feet off the ground, crossing one over the other and pressing them together. With another strong exhalation, lift your feet and hips higher, keeping them level with each other (Figure 4).
This position is a variation of Dwi Hasta Bhujasana (Two Handed Legs over Arms Pose). It can help you get the hang of balancing, since it is somewhat less difficult than Tittibhasana. The strong action of pressing your feet against each other engages the legs and lifts your hips. (You said - seems like you should make clear what the leverage does. I thought I did describe the effect of the leverage, i.e. raising the hips but is this better?] Unfortunately, the crossed feet also make it possible to cheat by simply hanging the legs on the arms and letting the hips sag toward the ground. To do the pose properly and to use it to gain insight in Tittibhasana, you must pay attention to all the details we've already discussed. Take a couple of calm, strong breaths and firmly root your arms. Engage deep abdominal support by merging your pubis and tailbone. Squeeze your legs into your arms while internally rotating you upper thighs and softening in your hip joints. And keep your chest broad, while softly rounding and widening your back.
Since Dwi Hasta Bhujasana requires such strong action, hold it only a few breaths before uncrossing your feet, planting them back on the floor, and standing up into Tadasana. Check in with your back. Your consuming focus on Dwi Hasta Bhujasana may have drowned out distress signals from a lower back in trouble. If your lower back does ache, I would advise against any more arm balances today. Instead, gently hug your knees into your chest to allow you lower back muscles to gradually settle down. After your muscles have relaxed a bit you can also do a counterpose such as Setu Banda Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) to firm and strengthen lumbar muscles that may have been weakened by over-stretching. If your back feels fine, however, you can proceed to Firefly Pose.
Perhaps the easiest way to enter Tittibhasana is to return to Dwi Hasta Bhujasana and use that pose to generate concentration and support before uncrossing the feet and straightening the legs into Tittibhasana. But let's try the slightly greater challenge of lifting directly into Tittibhasana.
Begin by again bending over and reaching your arms back between your legs to place your palms on the floor. Prepare for Tittibhasana, as you did earlier by positioning, and confidently transferring your weight from your feet to your hands. Since you know it is quite difficult to simultaneously lift your hips and maintain the flexibility to straighten your legs, pause to collect yourself and focus your attention on the actions you'll need for the pose. As you exhale, draw your pubis and tailbone toward each other, generating support within the bowl of your pelvis so your hips do not drop as you take strongly press your knees into your arms and lift the feet off the floor. Keep your knees bent for a moment and again consider your next move. Tittibhasana is a true exercise in balancing between effort and surrender. If you push too hard through the legs, you'll lose the internal rotation that keeps them hugging your arms. But without a strong lift in the lower abdomen, you’ll plop down on your derriere (if you use French, otherwise , bum.
Again gather together all the elements you need for a skillful demonstration of the asana. Engage the pubis and tailbone, broaden your chest, and look forward. Then, exhaling powerfully, extend your arms fully and, without allowing any other action to deteriorate, straighten your legs by extending the hamstrings, calves, and feet (Figure 5). When you engage all the necessary actions at once, you may find they merge a single clear intention that's sustained by the regular beat of your breath. You become a firefly with light aglow in your belly, expressing a universal human drive, played out from Icarus to the Wright Brothers to today's astronauts: the urge to fly.
Barbara Benagh has been practicing yoga since 1974. She is grateful to her first teacher, Elizabeth Keeble of Birmingham, England, for igniting her passion for yoga. Barbara teaches seminars throughout the United States and has a particular fondness for her school, The Yoga Studio, in Boston, and for the devoted students there.
• 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