Pronunciation: eh-KUH PAW-duh VEE-puh-ree-tuh DAWN-DAWS-uh-nuh
Translation: Eka means one, and Pada means foot in Sanskrit. Viparita translates to mean reversed or inverted. Danda is a staff, and asana means pose or posture as in yoga.
Yoga is said to create longevity and agelessness and vitality. Knowing yogis and yoginis over the ages of 50, 60, and 70, I can attest to their youthful looks, flexibility and the energy they bring to living. To yoga practitioners, a flexible spine means a long life. Often living in today’s modern culture means that we lean forward often and, as aging occurs, many people slump. Backbends are a perfect antidote to this slumping. They are not what our bodies are used to, so an adventurous spirit is required to do them.
Eka Pada Dandasana is a strong backbend. In the pose the head is nestled in the hands as in Sirsasana (the headstand), and the torso is gracefully arched into the air. One foot remains on the floor while the other leg is raised and extended with the foot pointing towards the sky.
Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana is assumed out of Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, the two legged inverted staff pose. “Dwi” means two in Sanskrit. Before attempting to learn Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana you should first learn Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.
In Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana the head is nestled in the hands as in Sirsasana, both feet are firmly planted on the floor and the torso is gracefully arched up towards the sky. To assume the one legged variation of the pose one must first get into the two legged pose and then raise and extend one leg.
Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana is considered an advanced backbend. It takes disciplined practice to learn and is one of the most beautiful postures in yoga. Practitioners of Iyengar yoga, ashtanga yoga, power and others do this posture.
This posture can be learned and initially practiced more easily using a wall as a prop as described below.
Technique: Place a mat on the floor perpendicular to the wall. Have about two inches of the end of the mat curling up the wall. This provides some cushioning to your elbows when they press into the corner where the wall joins the floor.
Start by lying on your back with your head at or near the wall. Bend your legs bringing your knees up. If possible bring your feet close enough to your pelvis so that you can clasp your ankles. Position the feet hip-width apart and move the heels out so they are slightly further apart than the front feet. This angling of the feet will slightly separate the buttocks and create space for the coccyx to move through in the pose. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and attempt to keep them in this position throughout the pose.
To start moving into the back arch you must raise the pelvis up from the floor. There are a number of areas that are important to attend to as you move your pelvis up.
* A primary danger in backbending is “crunching” your lower back allowing the lumbar vertebrae to collapse towards each other and put pressure on the cartilage between them. For some, over time, this movement can lead to pain and even cause so called ?slipped disks? in the lower back. To avoid this collapse keep as much space as possible between the vertebrae in your lower back as you work towards and in this pose. As you move your pelvis up, keep it tilted and continually move the coccyx bone up through your buttocks. Keep this action throughout your work in the pose.
* As you move into the pose and while holding it, avoid the tendency to separate the knees. Keep them hip-width apart.
* Roll the inner thighs down and the outer thighs up throughout.
* As you mindfully raise the pelvis, keeping all of the above points in mind, move it forwards toward your feet as well as up.
After you’ve formed a bit of a back arch place your hands on the mat behind your shoulders and lift your head and shoulders off the ground high enough so that you can position your head as you would in Sirsasana, the headstand, so that the weight is on the flat area at the top of your head, the fontanel.
Now clasp your hands behind your head and bring your elbows forward until they are shoulder width apart and face the wall. Eventually the pose can be done without using the wall as a prop. However, initially using the wall is very helpful. To use the wall properly the elbows should be positioned in the corner where the wall meets the floor. If they do not easily reach that spot you should lower yourself out of the pose, adjust the distance your head is from the wall, and try again until you find the proper starting location for your body.
Just as you are rolling in with your inner thighs you should also roll down with your inner forearms.
Press down with your inner forearms, open your upper chest and move it towards the wall as you walk your legs in towards your head and elevate your pelvis keeping your coccyx moving up between your legs. In the final pose your abdominal area should be flat and your body should form a graceful arch without overarching in the pelvic or chest areas. Hold the pose and continue to work on opening your spine for at least ten breaths before coming down.
This is Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana. You should do this a pose a number of times each practice and for a number of practices until it becomes familiar and you grow to understand it.
After you have added Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana to your backbending practice you can start to work on the one legged variation, Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana.
To come into Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana from Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana you should first stabilize your pelvis and then putting all your weight on one leg bend the other leg and bring its knee up towards your chest. Now and throughout this variation it is important to keep the pelvis level and avoid raising the raised leg side of the pelvis. Straighten the leg and extend it up towards the sky.
Work in the pose by pressing down with the leg on the floor and rolling your inner forearms down. This work will help you to further open your chest toward the wall and to raise your pelvis higher. It will deepen your back arch. Hold and work in the pose for at least ten slow breaths before bending the leg and lowering the knee towards your chest. Keeping the leg bent bring the knee up and put the foot back on the floor. Take a couple of breaths as you refine your Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana. Repeat the Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana variation on the other side.
When you are finished doing Viparita Dandasana release your arms, and lower down onto the mat in a lying down position where you can rest. You will notice how stillness of mind is cultivated in this pose as you are called to be equanimous in doing this challenging and exhilarating backbend.
Beginner’s Tip: Don’t do this pose before you have an established beginning backbending practice. Initially, focus on other backbends like Ustrasana (the Camel Pose), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana over a prop, supported backbends over bolsters or even a blanket roll beneath your shoulder blades on the mat, and Cobra.
We suggest having a teacher instruct you if possible. Those newer to yoga and less flexible can learn to do the two legged version over a chair, with your feet on the wall, a blanket folded under your back and a yoga strap around your thighs. Have a teacher show you how. A teacher who teaches the Iyengar style of yoga is most likely to be familiar with that variation.
Heart opening posture, with emotional and physical effects
Opens and expands your chest area
Open the thoracic spine and lumbar spine (Make space between your vertebrae in backbends)
Powerful leg stretch and front body stretch
This Pose stimulates many organs and glands: adrenal, thyroid, pituitary and pineal glands, makes more space in the lungs for respiration and effects the heart while improving circulation
Increase spine and shoulder flexibility
Strengthens and invigorates the whole body
Builds inner confidence
Develops poise and stillness of mind, and humbles the practitioner
Please don’t do this pose or the two legged version if you have any of the following conditons.
Spinal nerve damage and disc problems
Chronic shoulder dislocations or problems
Unmanaged high blood pressure
May be intense for menstruating women, listen to your body.
Remember that you are your own best guide how yoga poses feel and how deep is right for you. Sharp pain is a sign to stop and come out of the posture. It is best to do this pose and variations under supervision of a trained and skillful teacher when you first attempt them, as we have mentioned. The lumbar spine area is a place to be highly conscious of while doing the pose.