Back bending has never been my strong suit in yoga (ask any of my students 🙂 ) and ardha mandalasana is one that took me many repetitions to appreciate, then love.
If I’m spending too long at the computer, this is a pose I’ll do to open up my hips, chest and shoulders to counteract the toll that Mac time takes on my body.
There are several varieties of this pose—side stretch, back bend and I’ve even seen this pose taught as a lunge. But our variation here fits into the backbend group.
How to modify for different bodies
As a teacher, I love to share this pose with students and private clients, no matter what their age or level.
For students who are new to working on backbends, it’s easy to use a prop or two to make this pose accessible. Here are four ways:
- Putting a block or two under the supporting hand you can help those with a tight lumbar spine and hip flexors find ease.
- Changing the gaze point from the extended hand to nasagrai (nose) drishti or even to the floor in front of you will reduce the neck stretch.
- Padding the supporting knee is great for students with sensitive knees.
- Changing the placement of the extended foot will deepen or lessen the hip/low abdomen stretch, creating a more or less curvy half circle.
I also use visualization to help the student find the extension and curve of the half circle in their body. By pointing out that the circle begins at the toes and ends all the way through the fingertips, encourages them to explore this arc while they play with body position to find their own ardha mandalasana.
Our downloadable (and free!) tip sheet below gives you the lines of energy in the pose for you to explore in your own body so it’s easier to teach your students from your personal experience.
Be patient…it’s a backbend
This pose may be a bit edgy for some students who aren’t excited about moving into their west side or backspace of their body.
I was one of those students who avoided backbending because it was definitely not my forté. Coming from a competitive athletic background I was focused on moving forward…fast (some days 🙂 )…so arching into the back side of my body was not only challenging on a physical level but also on an energetic level.
Handle those students with care, encouraging them to find their expression of this pose in stages, or kramas.
As for the gumbies or bendies in your classes (or if this describes you), have them focus on moving into this backbend with control and strength (ok, I’ll say it—from mula and uddiyana bandhas) instead of indulging their flexibility by hanging out on the supporting arm and shoulder.
Encourage them to stay alive in the pose, using bandhas and breathe to fully explore the arch and the feeling of lightness.
Moving from the bandhas and using the inhale to extend up into the chest points lengthens the spine, especially the lumbar area.
Below are some additional details about this asana…as usual, download the pdf of this tip sheet at the bottom of this post.
asana name = ardha mandalasana
- ardha = half
- mandala = circle
- asana = seat
- Good opener for entire front of body.
- Opens chest breath, reducing effects of stress.
- Provides opening for front of legs and hips, as well as the side body.
- Calms nervous system.
- Stimulates lymphatic system, kidneys and adrenal glands.
- Fantastic for awakening and enlivening all the chakras.
- Low back, shoulder or neck injuries
- Reduce arch if low back/neck are sensitive or weak, or eliminate this pose altogether.
- Experiment with different upper arm positions to open chest and shoulder.
- Reduce hip and belly opening by placing extended leg’s foot in line with knee.
- Increase hip and belly opening by moving extended leg’s foot back behind knee line.
- Sensitive knees? Rest them on a folded blanket or towel.
- Open-hearted expansiveness
Ardha mandalasana is a pretty pose that hopefully will feel good while doing it. Find the variation that works for your body to give you an expansive feeling of opening up to life.
Look for the feeling of lift and lightness; if that’s not happening, find a way to modify it so that your body begins to appreciate it slowly.
What you can do next
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