Saturday, October 22, 2011

Yoga Rover: Samadhi Studio + Vasisthasana with "Easy Feet"

John Churchill, founder and owner of Samadhi demonstrates Gomukasana (Cow Face pose) with a side bend. Why Cow Face? The stacked knees look like the lips of a cow, the feet like the ears. 
Whenever I travel anywhere, I always try to seek out local yoga class. No only does it help me get unknotted from slouching about in bucket-seated motorized transport, I get to learn something new from a professional fellow teacher, in a fresh new place. (I also do this with haircuts - I got an excellent 'do for $2 in Tarma, Peru....).

So while visiting Boston with my folding bike recently, I found a studio that was a perfectly civilized 3-mile bike ride from door to door - a lo-carbon emission way to arrive already warmed up to class!

The studio:  Samadhi in Newton, MA. The teacher: founder and master acupuncturist, John Churchill.

John's Open class contained quite a few interesting variations on basic poses that I hadn't come across before. I confess I like to experiment, seeking different (and easier) ways to achieve the effects of poses for nervous newbie students, so this definitely resonated with me.

1. Vasisthasana or side plank variation: first, I liked that he instructed students to start from plank with feet slightly apart, dropping the sides of both feet to the left, say, one directly behind the other, heel to toe. The advantage is a wider surface area - weight on two feet, not just the one underneath:

Easy Vasisthasana feet
Stacking the feet side by side on top of each other - the textbook way - has always hurt my feet and is tricky for beginners:

One of my easy variations on this is to make a "V" with the big toe and second toe of the right foot say, then slot it over the skinny part above the heel of the other foot, before tipping the whole "unit" over to the side. It's just a variation of what John taught - his is actually simpler, easier and more comfortable:

Easy Vasisthasana feet V2
Tip the whole "unit" to the side

Second, once in the Vasisthasana side plank position, he instructed us to lower the hip to the mat a few times. This is a very cool and interesting way to stretch out the side of the body while actually in another pose. I like it!

2. For preparing to do Warrior III, he had us do several small, prep moves to weight the standing foot considerably, before attempting to take flight. This kind of prep is rarely done to this degree in balancing poses - we often try to move into them too hastily and end up hopping around and falling all over the place. It was surprising how after "priming" the standing leg so much, it felt extremely stable.

3. He seemed to be a big fan of Gomukhasana pose, as shown in the above picture, which does a nice  job of stretching out the much neglected piriformus (one of those muscles in the sit bone area that gets sat on all day in office chairs). I liked the side bend he incorporated into this pose. The most common arm position for this pose, as you'll see in the link, is the "reach behind," where your hands either meet or they don't!

There were more cool moves of course, but these are the ones I remembered.

Thank you John @Samadhi!

Spotting more cool moves by fellow teachers: Yoga Rover

Passage to Boston from NYC: 4-5 hours on the Bolt Bus with folding transportation in the hold!


  1. That vasisthasana modification you mentioned is called Starfish pose in YogaFit or in pilates. I'd been doing it for years in my yoga practice, until recently.

    It is great for the less flexible of hipped, or the shakier of balanced ... and Starfish used to be one of my favorite poses ...

  2. Thanks Tina! There seems to be many variations of starfish pose ranging from this:
    to even this!
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I meant the one that you call "Tip the whole unit to the side" ... that's Starfish Pose ... and what it was called in yoga I learned at the gym ...

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