Karandavasana -connecting the dots between Dutty Wine & Ashtanga Yoga
Yes I know I’ve already written a blog post on Karandavasana recently but hey I got a request from a student to do another one – and the previous one was more of a ‘zen’ approach where as this one will be a basic how to type of thang!(Just like the Kapotasana blog I just wrote probably with less jokes).
So the main question I get about this posture is w.t.f. is it doing in the intermediate series – surely it should be in the advanced sequences – my answer to this? Please don’t call me surely ; )
Where to start with Kara huh? Well what I will say is this, if you can’t do Pincha Mayurasana solidly for at least 10 breaths STOP READING THIS and come back when you can – ok? If you haven’t got a solid Pincha then there’s just no way you can even think about Kara – sorry about that dude.
Let’s move on. So here’s the thing, well here’s the things that I did and hopefully you’ll be able to use these ideas too. First of all once you are in the first part of Kara i.e. you’ve jumped / floated/kicked into Pincha then got your legs into the lotus position, don’t do anything, well don’t move anywhere until you can solidly stay in this position for at least 10 breaths. Let’s call this the ’12 O’clock’ position (as in the legs are pointing up to 12 on a clock face, this clock analogy thing will make sense in the next sentence). So once 10 breaths in 12 0’Clock is possible you want to do this: first squeeze your knees together (staying in lotus position) this ‘squeezing’ motion will help to activate your core muscles, your bandha in Ashtanga speak ( I’m not going to get into the bandha debate in this blog – maybe somewhere further down the line. I will say this though – my experience of bandha is that uddiyana and mula bandha are interlinked i.e. if you activate uddiyana bandha (which is pretty much your core muscles, physiologically speaking) you will find your mula band gets activated automatically). Once your knees are squeezing and your bandha is on, lift your butt up to the ceiling / sky depending on your location – but basically lift your ass high, baby! What this will do is engage your shoulder muscles as you press the elbows / fore arms into the floor to lift the sit bones up high. If you need two things to make Kara happen it’s 1- strong ‘activated’ shoulders and 2- good core muscles.
So once butt is high and core is on (and keeping with the clock analogy) take your legs to maybe five past twelve. You can watch the video I’ve done below. (There’s 3 videos below – the top video is a Kara demo, the second one shows the stages of how to get into Kara and the very bottom one is extra stuff to help your Kara). At this stage you no longer need to be lifting your sit bones up –more like pushing your ass outwards and tucking your lotus in as you start your decent – like they do in dutty wine -jut the butt! Basically what this does is to tilt the pelvis slightly forwards (as you jut the butt) and help to engage those core uddiyana bandha muscles to help you control the lower body. Once you can get to 5 past and stay there for 5-10 breaths lift back up to 12 0’Clock . Once you can stay at 5 past and lift back up to 12 0’clock comfortably try next to get to 10 past 12 – using the same method 5-10 breaths then lift back up – so you basically keep using this method 15 past 12 , 20 past 12 , 25 past 12 etc –always making sure you are able to lift back up to 12 0’Clock after your 5-10 breaths. If you can’t get back up to 12 you need to stay at this place until you can – does that make sense? Hopefully the (second) video below will be a little more instructive. If there’s one thing I can tell you about Kara is that if you are not going down into the full posture with control ( ie you are just flopping down) then there is no way in a million years that you will be able to lift back up again (well not without the help of a teacher). That in a nutshell my friend is basically my method – it’s gonna take you a whole lot of time – probably more than Kapo did – but it’ll teach you one thing most (western) folk don’t have and that’s the P word (patience, young padawan!).
So you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few ‘extra’ things you can do that will help you nail Kara eventually. These extras are in the headstand – I’ve added these on to 3rd video below – so have a quick butchers* at this first. When you are up into headstand , start to press your elbows into the floor , engage your shoulders and see if you can lift your head off the floor – this will definitely help with shoulder/upper body strength you’re gonna need for Kara. Once you can lift your head comfortably and stay balanced draw your chin towards your chest and look up – if you over balance go back to head lifted only (without looking up) until you are more solid in the balance. Once you are able to lift the head like this (with or without looking up) just extend the time you can do it until you can spend your whole headstand 15 breaths or so with head lifted. So next is to lower the legs parallel to the floor ( half-bend) as the correct headstand vinyasa stipulates (with toes pointed – don’t cheat!), then lift your legs back up to the 12 0’Clock position ( again following correct vinyasa method) and here we step outside the Ashtanga tradition as we lower the straight legs nearly to the floor. Then with the toes just about to touch the floor , lift them back up to 12 0’Clock position , then back down again , then up then down etc ( watch the vid for action shots!) A bit like headstand crunches !! Do as many as you can – this for me was great for core/bandha and shoulder strength – put it this way I always struggled with Kara , I then added these few things to my practice and then BOOM I was able to nail it each time. You’ll find that getting beyond the 12.25 position with the butt just off the floor (see top video) seems like an impossible task but heed Guruji’s words DO YOUR PRACTICE AND ALL (including Karandavasana) IS COMING.
* butchers is short for ‘butchers hook’ – which is cockney rhyming slang for look.
Video 1 Karandavasana Demo (outside our house)
Video 2 Karandavasana stages
( note that I did the clock thing pretty quick i.e. I didn’t take the 5-10 breaths each time I lowered down – mainly as this would have been super boring to watch)
Video 3 Extra stuff to assist your Karandavasana