Pose of the Week: Setu Bandha

Saturday, 27 April 2019 17:50
Welcome to the Term 2 blogs.
This week’s pose is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or alternatively named Chatush Padasana.
Setu Bandha means formation of a bridge and Sarvangasana is shoulder stand or can be translated as asana for the whole body. Chatush means four and Pada means foot. Asana means posture or pose.
I have written 2 previous blogs on Shoulder stand. If you missed them, here are the links: Salamba Sarvangasana 1
Geeta Iyengar in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Gem for Women (1983)
If you’re familiar with the Beginner’s course you’ll recall this much-practiced asana. Sometimes we also place a block or blocks under the sacrum. In fact, there are a lot of variations of this asana. This asana prepares you for Shoulder stand as you learn to take your weight onto the shoulders and bring your chest close to the chin. It also prepares the neck for practicing Pranayama (breathing exercises) by bringing the neck into flexion. 
Larissa in Chatush Padasana in Wednesday's night class
The chest close to the chin position is called Jalandhara Bandha. Jala = net, Dhara = bearing or supporting and Bandha = bond or lock. Bandhas are energetic locks that contain the prana (energy) in the torso and concentrate it in the three main energy channels (nadis) of the body. The head and neck placement is counter to that associated with backbends where the throat is open and exposed. Check the blog on Ustrasana a few weeks ago.
When the head is forward the position is safe and protected. This elicits a response from the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is one of the two systems in the autonomic nervous system that ‘is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions. The parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of "rest-and-digest" or "feed and breed" activities that occur when the body is at rest, especially after eating. Its action is described as being complementary to that of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the fight-or-flight response.’ (Wikipedia)
The chin toward the chest position also involves the positioning of the eyes. When the head is down the eyes turn inward. This excites a branch of the parasympathetic nervous system, the cranial-nerve III. (Robin, M A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana, 2002 p.218) This produces a feeling of relaxation. 
It is fascinating to compare the scientific analysis of an asana, with what you actually experience in the pose. 
It’s your experience of the asana that really counts.
See you on the mat :)
Nicole Schroeter
Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher
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