Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review: A Chair for Yoga, by Eyal Shifroni

I heard about A Chair for Yoga  from my friend @Cathy Wright, in Fort Collins, and immediately contacted the Denver Iyengar Yoga Center to get a copy. They were completely out, so I had to contact the author, +Eyal Shifroni, directly. Shifroni is a senior Iyengar teacher in Israel who published this book with Guruji's blessing. I bought 30 copies and now have 4 left. This is an extremely useful book with lots of clear pictures so that any student of Iyengar Yoga can figure out how to practice with a chair at home. This book is not for those new to the Iyengar method, and the author states that up front.

The book is divided into chapters based on the different classifications of postures: Standing, Sitting, Forward extensions, Twists, Inversions, Backward Extensions, Abdominal, and Restorative Asanas. Additionally, the Appendix shows a "gentle practice' that can be done by anyone, anywhere.

My initial draw to this book came from the way my friend described how the chair is used in this book for Parsvottanasana. The chair is used folded up, with the hollow of the seat of the chair facing upward. Standing near a wall, the practitioner puts the legs of the chair at the corner of floor and wall, while the top of the backrest of the chair goes into the top thigh and groin area. The chair is now wedged into the corner of wall and floor, at a diagonal, and at the practitioners hips. When the practitioner positions the legs, one forward and one back, and equalizes the pressure on both groins, voila! The pelvis is level; the old riddle of Parsvottanasana is solved.

The author states four main reasons for use of a chair in asana practice:
  1. To be able to perform asanas which are difficult to perform independently
  2. To achieve and maintain correct alignment during the practice
  3. To stay longer and relax in challenging asanas, in order to attain their full benefit
  4. to Study and investigate the asanas in greater depth.

In the example above, the chair was used mainly for alignment. But there is more. Start in the concave position with hands directly under the shoulders and after a minute or so, slide the hands down to get the full posture. The edge of the backrest in the groins maintains the integrity of the pelvis, and provides a base for traction of the spine as the arms slide down the legs of the chair, toward wall and floor. Having the ability to push forward, against the wall, with the legs of the chairs, the back heel grounds more easily and the calf stretches. The mind calms. Now reasons 3 and 4 come into play.

Brilliant. I never had seen this before. Most of the uses of the chair were familiar to me, but the ones that were new to me in this book opened up a creative wellspring for many hours of insightful practice.

From that work in Parsvottansana, I thought: if the chair can be used to level the pelvis in Parsvottanasna, how might it be used in another posture that challenges the balance of the pelvis--like, say Virabhadrasana III?

You have to play with the height of the chair backrest, that is to say, add a folded blanket or or two if you are tall; or use a tall chair. But it is entirely possible to have the chair in its open position, between yourself and the wall at such a distance that both frontal groins rest on the backrest, while the hands extend toward a wall and one leg extends backward. Cheating by lifting the hip of the backward leg just isn't tantalizing. Alignment comes easily; as does a beautiful and soothing experience of Virbhadrasana III. . So another benefit of working with chairs is that their use can make a heating posture cooling so that it can be maintained longer and studied more deeply  (reasons 1, 2, 3, and 4). I was able to work on my weaker leg by standing with it longer and really focusing on pulling up from the outer knee to the outer thigh without raising the hip of that backward leg.

All of the chapters are rich with pictures and concise with instructions. In the backbend chapter, you'll find some interesting ways of doing Ustrasana that offer support to the back of the neck, the shoulder blades, the upper back, or the pubic bone, depending on how you use the chair. So you can target your area of darkness and the chair will bring in the light. I especially appreciated the demonstrations of Urdhva Dhanurasana with two chairs and 2-3 bolsters. I offered this setup in an Level 2-3 class at Alcove Yoga to two persons who had tight shoulders. They really got the full length of the front body, and armpits, without jamming the shoulders. There was equipoise and joy in their faces as they came out of the pose.

You cannot get this book in the U.S. or from IYNAUS. A Chair for Yoga, by @Eyal Shifroni, can be purchased directly from the author by going to his website. It is an outstanding resource that will give the experienced Iyengar Yoga student many hours of playful practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment