TEACHERS NOTEBOOK: Pyramid Pose
Explore this intense forward fold by changing how it works against gravity and turn this “love-to-hate” pose into a student favorite.
Pyramid can be one of those ‘love it’ or ‘leave it’ poses for your students—and even for you. If tight hamstrings or calves make this pose inaccessible, try these modifications. Creatively placing props and changing how the pose works against gravity may be all your body needs to say “yes” to this forward fold.
Pyramid Prep—at the wall
Placing both hands (or forearms) on the wall gives us the ability to balance opposing forces of energy. It’s a good time to remember Newton’s Third Law of Physics, which says: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As we press into the wall with our hands (a forward pressing action) there is an energetic surge moving back and down through the spine towards your back heel.
The full, standing expression of Pyramid Pose focuses intensely on the hamstrings—and can cause a lot of discomfort. If your back heel peels off the floor or if one hip hikes up higher than the other, chances are you have some restriction or tightness in your back leg (particularly in the hamstring or calf muscles). Try this kneeling variation, which will give the hamstrings an opportunity to stretch one at a time.
With two blocks by your side, kneel in front of a wall. Extend the front leg as straight as you can and press the ball of the front foot into the wall. With elbows softly bent, press both blocks into the wall, lengthen up through the crown of your head, and slowly bend forward over your front leg, only as far as your body is willing. Experiment with pointing and flexing the front toes, which will isolate the calf muscles.
Actions: By keeping the back knee on the floor, we can shorten the hamstring, and by pointing the front toes, we shorten the calf muscles. With the back foot and shin securely rooted on the earth, gravity plays a stabilizing role here. Pressing the blocks against the wall allows you to work with Newton’s Third Law of Physics, as we explored in the first example.
Caution: Both of these Pyramid expressions require a soft knee. Avoid locking out your knees anytime the leg(s) are extended.