I want to congratulate Tristan Boyer Binns and the Boston Yoga Ropes Collective for presenting this work on the techniques and benefits of rope work in yoga asana. Wall and ceiling ropes have been a distinctive feature of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune since its inception in the 1970s. Ropes work typifies the brilliance and innovation of BKS Iyengar in helping his students to find ways to approach even the most challenging yoga asanas with intelligence.
BKS Iyengar recognized that many aspiring practitioners have restriction in the body that makes the classical asanas difficult to access. For the practitioner to be able to achieve evenness of mind and serenity of consciousness—the ultimate aim of yoga—the state of prayatna śaithilya (effortless effort) needs to be achievable. By using the ropes, the practitioner changes her relationship to gravity and can use her own body weight as traction on the spine. Working with motion helps to break through stiffness and create freedom in the joints so that movements become possible that were not possible before. When one is hanging on the ropes, the degree of muscular effort is substantially reduced, making it possible to stay in the asana for a longer period of time. The breath circulates with more freedom, which benefits the physiological body. This freedom moves beyond the physical and leads to freedom in the mind, which becomes expansive, calm, stable. I know how ropes can transform a backbend practice in particular. At the Backbend Intensive in Pune, India in 1991, Guruji had us use ropes to do backbends we could not do from the floor.
Even the stiffest bodies could use ropes as a means to go deeper into a pose and prepare for the next stage. Prashant Iyengar has referred to backbends in the ropes as the “ethereal backbends." As though the body was suspended among the stars, these poses bring about an elemental transformation: we are no longer bound by the earth and experience a feeling of inner space and freedom in our embodiment. As a result, our consciousness transforms. This resource will enhance your practice of yoga asana. You’ll learn how you can use yoga poses on the ropes to prepare for challenging asanas off the ropes or as a dedicated ropes practice in and of themselves. By practicing the rope variations in this book, you will also pierce through fear and develop courage. Practicing on the ropes can be joyful and empowering. It is a joy to see how this book has come together: the poses, the instructions, the history, how so many students and teachers have been included in the photos. BKS Iyengar often said that dedicated practitioners and students should come together to share freely their experiences of yoga with one another so that all may benefit from this sacred art. I applaud the Boston Yoga Ropes Collective for sharing their work and wish you all many wonderful practices.
Patricia Walden • Boston, 2019
Lollipop Rope Sirsasana
If classic Sirsasana is not available to you because of injury, you may find this a wonderful substitute.
It’s also a lot of fun to hang unimpeded, and enjoy gravity working the other way for a while.
Center on one rope. Make two knots in the long rope, one on top of the other. Detach the other long rope and put it through the knotted long rope. Place 2 bricks under the rope. (E1.1)
Make a sarong out of a blanket to pad the hips and thighs. Fold the blanket in four horizontally so it does not come too low on the hips. (E1.2, E1.3, E1.4)
Take the looped rope overhead and stand on the blocks. Settle the loop on the sacrum and lean back into it. (E1.5 & E1.6)
Keep leaning the shoulders back. Step up onto the wall and walk the feet higher than the hips. (E1.7)
Take the legs into Baddha Konasana and release the torso down. (E1.8)
Pregnant women can try Sling Rope Sirsasana.
Menstruating women should avoid all inversions.
If you have uncontrolled high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, retinal issues, or any other internal reason to avoid inversions, do not do this pose.
There are so many reasons to do Sirsasana using the wall ropes. Injuries to the neck, shoulders, elbows, or wrists may restrict your ability to do classic Sirsasana, but by using the ropes these areas are free from pressure.
You may be able to hold Rope Sirsasana for a longer period of time than classic Sirsasana, letting you build up time inverted.
It can be restorative, done with the crown of the head supported, and is good preparation for pranayama.
The Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana variation helps build confidence and strength leading up to an independent practice of Adho Mukha Vrksasana.
Work in the Pose
Place the hands on the floor in a Sirsasana 2 position. Pressing with the hands, lift the buttocks and tailbone up towards the ceiling. This should release the low back into a more neutral position.
Allow the body to relax into the reversal of gravity.
Try taking the feet out to the sides into Upavistha Konasana legs. (E1.9)
Try Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana
With the arms in Sirsasana 2 position, take the hands about 12 inches away from the wall. Separate the feet hip distance and parallel and press the soles of the feet into the wall. Bring the knees in towards each other. (E1.10)
Lift the hips up and into the ropes as you straighten the arms. You will come into a half-handstand, Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana. This may be more comfortable than the Baddha Konasana leg position. (E1.11)
Return the legs to Baddha Konasana position and the buttocks to the wall. Engage the core muscles. Reach up for the ropes by the feet.
Lift the torso and take the legs to one side. Stand up and lean the head on the wall for at least three breaths. (E1.12, E1.13, E1.14)
This can hurt the thighs, hips, or buttocks because of the pressure of the ropes. Try the Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana variation to relieve the pressure and then come back into Baddha Konasana legs.
It can feel frightening to lean back and lower down into space away from the wall. Have a helper with you at first to simply reassure you that all is well. You should not try this alone until you are very competent. (E1.15)
Because coming up and out requires core strength, if you have weakness or any low back pain, have help lifting the torso and coming out of the pose. (E1.16)
Where to go from here?
As with classic Sirsasana, you could move into backbending from here. Rope Sirsasana is a good end to an active practice, because it is calming as well as invigorating. It can also come before forward bends or twists.
This is an excerpt from Yoga Kurunta: Learning the Ropes A Comprehensive Guide to Using Wall Ropes in your yoga practice by the Boston Yoga Ropes Collective. Learn more at https://www.ropes.yoga/