A Sequence for Pasasana (Noose Pose)

Establishing stability in your practice creates more freedom in your life. Pasana (noose pose) allows advanced practitioners to experience this. Here’s how.

May 30, 2013    BY Christina Sell

Just hearing the word “commitment” can sometimes make even the most confident person nervous, anxious to find an exit strategy. Case in point: A friend of mine recently married someone she truly loves. But in the weeks leading up to the “big day,” she was suddenly overcome with anxiety. What if I change my mind? What if he can’t keep his vows? I asked her what worried her most. She burst into tears and exclaimed, “I don’t think I’m cut out for commitment at all.”

This same friend has a longtime asana and pranayama practice. I gently pointed out that she has managed to stay faithful to those practices all these years. “That’s not the same thing,” she told me. “It’s not like a commitment. I really want to do yoga.” Seriously? Every day? “Hardly anyone I know wants to practice every single day,” I said. Of course, she might not want to, she said, but she does anyway. “I do yoga whether I want to or not,” she said. “That way I reap the benefits that come from my sustained effort over a long period of time.” Sounds like a successful marriage to me.

Most relationships require this type of sustained commitment to take root and grow. Patanjali describes this idea clearly in the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra in verse 1.14 when he defines what it means to commit to a practice. We are established in practice; that is, the practice becomes a firm foundation for us, he says, when we do it continuously, over a long period of time, with reverence and devotion.

We can embody reverence and devotion--whether we're on our mat doing asanas, or off the mat working on ourselves and our relationships.

We all do things on a regular basis—certain habits or routines we fall into, deliberately or not. We may drink a certain kind of tea every night before bed, or walk the dog on the same path every day at 4 p.m., or meditate each morning before breakfast. We can turn anything we do into a practice by committing to do it with reverence. Our commitments then become promises we make to ourselves—intentions we set toward a nobler aspiration—instead of simply tasks we perform or rules we follow without much thought.

Our practices become a means of binding ourselves to our values and to those pursuits worthy of our devoted attention. Instead of viewing devotion and reverence as abstract ideals, we can embody them, whether we’re on our yoga mat doing asanas or off the mat working on ourselves or on our relationships. If we practice long and often enough, Patanjali says, we can create a stable foundation, which, paradoxically, leads to a greater degree of freedom in our lives.

Douglas Brooks, PhD, professor of religion at the University of Rochester, reminds his students that, in yoga, “freedom doesn’t come from freedom; freedom comes from bondage.” Brooks calls yoga an “exquisite bondage,” one that gives the practitioner the freedom to live according to what she believes in her heart to be true. No longer enslaved by harmful or mindless habits, the practitioner devotes herself to perfecting a practice that empowers her to find freedom from samsara—the ultimate bondage of death and rebirth. Once she finds stability within, she is free to listen to the wisdom of her heart and live her life accordingly.

Pasasana (noose pose) allows us to experiment with bondage and freedom, commitment and devotion. Physically, this pose—a deep twist with a bind for the arms—requires strong work in the legs and hips in order to create a firm foundation that will enable the spine to twist freely and deeply. The deeper the twist, the easier it is for the shoulders to open and the hands to make the final clasp around the back and legs, and the breath to move up into the heart and lungs, bringing with it a sense of joy and openness.

Metaphorically, the stable base of pasasana represents the power of commitment, and its twisting action our purpose to revolve around our deepest truths. The clasp embodies our adherence to our core values. And just as practice requires sustained effort over time, this difficult pose succeeds only through persistent and devoted repetition, since very few people can do this pose when they first encounter it. And on a practical level? Only do pasasana on an empty stomach; don’t do the pose if you have knee or low back issues, or a herniated disk.

When practicing this sequence, sustain a breath count or a set time for each posture. Committing to five full cycles of ujjayi pranayama in each posture—or holding the pose for a predetermined amount of time—allows you to set boundaries for yourself, which ironically can be freeing. You can now attend to the pose rather than fidgeting or toying with the idea of coming out of the posture once it gets a little uncomfortable. Shoot for 30 seconds or a minute, depending on your strength, stamina, and experience.

Pasana (noose pose) allows us to experiment with bondage and freedom, commitment and devotion.

Of course, you should never feel pain while you’re in a pose. If that happens or your breath becomes jagged, come out. These boundaries are not rigid; you are in charge of your own practice. You may find it useful to try each posture more than once to gain maximum benefit and to allow yourself to learn and improve through repetition.

How to Prepare for Pasasana (Noose Pose)

1. Parshvottanasana

In tadasana, join your hands behind you in reverse prayer position. If your shoulders feel tight, grab your elbows or interlace your hands behind your back. Draw your shoulder blades onto your back and toward one another. Move the top or the “head” of each arm bone toward the back plane of your body. These actions will stabilize your shoulders and help you open up the front of your chest more fully.

Inhale and step your feet three to three and a half feet apart, turning your right leg out and your left leg in strongly. Emphasize three primary strengthening actions in the legs: hug your muscles to the bones; squeeze your legs together; and draw energy from your feet into your hips. Move your tailbone in and lift your low belly in and up toward your navel as you lift your chest and extend up through the top of your head. Move your neck back as though you are making a double chin, and lift your face toward the sky.

Exhale, bending forward at your hips. As you lower your torso down, imagine that you have a gas pedal underneath the ball of your right foot. Keep your heel planted and push through the ball of your foot until you feel your back foot get heavier against the floor behind you. This action will help you distribute the weight of the posture evenly between your feet and prevent you from hyper-extending the front leg. First aim your forehead toward your shin, then your chin to your shin. Remain in the posture for five full breath cycles or according to your predetermined time.

Inhale, push down into your back leg, and come to standing. Repeat on the other side.

2. Garudasana

Standing in tadasana, bend your right leg. Take your left leg and wrap it around your right leg. Tuck your left foot behind your right calf and point your toes down toward the floor. If your left foot won’t stay put, try again: bend deeper and lift your left leg higher to initiate the wrap higher on your right leg, or rest the toes of your left foot gently on the right outer ankle. Now, take your left arm under your right arm and cross your arms at the elbows and at the wrists. Get your palms as close together as you can.

Sit deeply into your standing leg and squeeze your bound legs together. Now lift your upper back into as much of an upper backbend as you can. Maintaining the strong actions in your legs, bend forward at the waist, slide your side ribs back, and inflate the back of your body like you are a Halloween cat. Round your spine and bring your elbows to the outside of your top leg. This forward bend opens your hips and stretches your back, preparing them for the next posture. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

3. Parivritta Parshvakonasana

From tadasana, step your feet wide—four to four and a half feet apart. Turn your right leg out and pivot on the ball of your left foot until your hips are squared with the front edge of your mat. Inhale and engage your legs strongly, hugging the leg muscles to the bone, and draw energy up into your hips. Reach your left arm over your head and lengthen your spine. Exhale, round your back slightly, and twist your torso over your front leg. Place the outside of your left armpit on the outside of your right knee. Place your left hand on the floor or on a block.

Metaphorically, the stable base of pasasana represents the power of commitment, and its twisting action our purpose to revolve around our deepest truths.

Once the twist feels secure, don’t remain in a forward bending position. Lift your chest and create an upper back bend so that your head and your tailbone are in one straight line. To deepen the twist, strengthen your legs to create stability and lengthen from your right hipbone to your right armpit to make both sides of the torso even. Twist more. Take your right arm over your head and look up. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

4. Marichyasana 3

In dandasana, bend your right leg and place your right foot at the inside of your left thigh, close to the perineum. Keep your left leg outstretched. Place your right hand behind you and bend your elbow slightly. Don’t press the elbow into the side of the body; that will only inhibit the flow of energy in the body and the movement of the shoulder. Inhale, reach your left arm over your head, and stretch your spine long. Exhale, twist, and place the outside of your left armpit to the outside of your right knee. Eliminate the gap between your armpit and knee as best as you can to help you move more of your belly through your bent leg.

Now engage your legs as though you were in a standing posture, turn your inner wrist toward the floor so that your forearm is parallel to the floor, and twist to the right. Take your arm bones back strongly and create a slight backbend in the upper back. Hold, release on an inhalation, and repeat on the other side.

5. Ardha Matsyendrasana

This posture begins to set the stage for the clasps and binds of the arms. Maintain strong reverse prayer work in the arms by firming your shoulders on your back and taking the heads of your arm bones back.

From dandasana, bend your left knee and, sliding your left foot under your right leg, place your left foot on the outside of your right hip. Place your right foot on the floor on the outside of your left knee. Anchor your outer right hip. Inhale, squeeze your legs together, push your left knee and right foot against one another, lift your left arm up and stretch your spine. Exhale and twist.

Place your left hand around your left kneecap. Press your left elbow into your right leg slightly to give you a deeper twist. Place your right arm behind you and lift up through your side waist. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

6. Marichyasana 3 (with Clasp)

Do this variation of marichyasana 3 only if you can close the gap between your knee and your armpit. Otherwise, simply repeat the first variation on page 35. If that gap between your arm and your leg is nearly eliminated, engage through your legs, widen your left elbow out to the side, and rotate your arm internally. Slip your left hand around the front of your right shin. Take your right hand around the back of your waistline just like you practiced in ardha matsyendrasana. With your inner right wrist facing down, clasp your hands together. Continually push your right heel down into the floor. Isometrically drag your inner right heel toward your inner left thigh to help you keep your outer right hip down. Then stretch your spine up, take your arm bones back, and twist. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

7. Parivritta Parshvakonasana (with Clasp)

This is a deeper variation of parivritta parshvakonasana than the one we first practiced. If the clasp is not accessible to you right now, don’t force it. Take your time. Listen to your body and respond lovingly and cautiously. Follow the instructions for parivritta parshvakonasana above. Stay strong in your legs and full in your back body.

With your right elbow wide, thread your right forearm underneath your left thigh and secure it along the inside of your leg. Taking your left shoulder onto your back, move the head of your arm bone back, bend your left arm at your waistline and clasp your hands behind your back like you did in marichyasana 3. Do an upper back backbend and take both arm bones back steadily. Lift your right inner thigh up away from the floor and spin your right heel down to the floor to deepen the twist even farther. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

8. Malasana

Bring your feet together. Bend forward and place your hands on the floor approximately one foot in front of you. Come up onto the balls of your feet, shifting your weight into your hands, and bring your hips to your heels, separating your knees toward your armpits. Once you have folded forward, lower your heels to the floor. If your heels don’t touch the floor, fold a blanket or a towel underneath your heels for stability. If at all possible, do not separate your feet, turn them out, or otherwise vary the form.

Stretch your arms all the way out in front of you and lengthen your spine, placing your head as close to the floor as you can. And now, internally rotate your elbow creases to the side; as you turn your arms in, move your armpits as far down your lower leg as you can.

Now shrug your shoulders toward your ears for a moment. Then reach one arm at a time farther down your shin with a slight internal rotation and then stretch that arm way back behind you. Repeat with the other arm. Do this action of “cinching” yourself deeper into the pose a few times. Hold, squeezing your legs together and breathing into your back to stretch your back body fully. Release.

The Peak Pose

9. Pasasana (First Variation)

Place a folded blanket next to a wall. Stand in tadasana with your heels on the blanket. Put yourself about a forearm’s distance away from the wall. Inhale, lift your chest. Exhale, bend your knees and squat. Now inhale, tone your legs as though you were doing a standing pose, stretch your spine long, exhale, and twist, placing your outer right armpit to your outer left knee. Eliminate the gap between your shoulder and knee.

Place your right hand on the wall at the same height as your right shoulder. Place your left arm up the wall, making sure you maintain a bend in your left elbow. Inhale, squeeze your legs together, extend your spine, empty your breath, and twist toward the wall. Isometrically drag your left hand toward the floor until you feel more power come to your left shoulder blade on your back. Keep the power there, push your right arm against your left knee, scoop your tailbone more, do the upper backbend, and twist more deeply. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

10. Pasasana (Second Variation)

If you can eliminate the gap between your left shoulder and your right leg, proceed to the clasping variation. Repeat all of the same instructions for the previous pose. Turn your left arm in, widening your elbow out to the side again. Reach your left hand around your right shin, sliding your forearm across the front of your left shin and around the outside of your left thigh. Eventually you may be able to wrap the bind around both legs.

Taking your right arm bone back, bend your right arm at your waistline and, keeping your inner wrist down, clasp your hands behind your back. Squeeze your knees together, tone your outer hips together, stretch your spine, take your arm bones back, and twist. Hold, release, and repeat on the other side.

Very few people can do this pose when they first encounter it. Just as practice requires sustained effort over time, this difficult pose succeeds only through persistent and devoted repetition.

When you’re ready, remove the folded blanket from under your feet and practice the final pose, incorporating all of the elements you’ve just worked on.

After such deep hip flexion, it can be very beneficial to stretch the front groin, release the psoas muscle, and bring the body back to neutral. So, conclude this practice with setu bandha sarvangasana, stretching out through your leg bones to lengthen the front of your body. Supta virasana and windshield wiper pose will also yield a similar effect. Take time to rest comfortably in shavasana.

Christina Sell
Christina Sell has been practicing asana since 1991 and teaching since 1998. She's known for her passion, clarity, and creativity, and her teaching style is a dynamic and challenging blend of inspiration, humor, and hard work. Masterful at synthesis, Christina has an unparalleled ability to harvest and transmit the unique contributions of various yoga methods. Christina believes that yoga practice can help anyone access their inner wisdom and authentic spirituality and to clarify their highest... Read more>>

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