Yoga Kurunta is a series of Iyengar style asanas practiced with aid of ropes on a wall, translating to mean puppet or doll made of wood. The student is literally suspended from the ropes like a puppet! In various postures, you can learn to become both the puppet and puppeteer by using the ropes for purposeful direction.
The rope wall was first developed and refined by the late B.K.S. Iyengar, originating in the ordinary Indian home or dwelling. Simple ropes were secured from a typical window gate, allowing for the yoga practitioner to go deeper in various poses as they are held by the ropes in suspension.
According to his eldest daughter Geeta S. Iyengar, a rope wall can be an invaluable tool for students who are stiff, weak or unable to perform certain asanas independently.
For instance, many students new to yoga are not always ready for inversions, but a rope wall helps to facilitate the process by making the student feel more stable and secure. Much like the alignment-based principles of Iyengar Yoga, the ropes help students become more aware of the orientation of their bodies. With emphasis on anatomy, students will experience greater opening of certain areas while still strengthening and toning their body.
The rope wall is a limitless resource to the yoga practitioner of any age, size or level of practice. With rope walls beginning to pop up all over the country and at studios like shambhala yoga & dance in Brooklyn, where I teach, here are five reasons why you should try a rope wall yoga practice:
1. Discover a new and exciting way to practice yoga.
The rope wall can bring a fresh perspective to your understanding of the asanas, from backbends to forward bends, twists or inversions.
One definition of yoga is "the harnessing of one's physical and mental energies in order to revitalize oneself." The actual physical harness of the ropes in their many configurations will help you direct your body and mind toward a state of equanimity and balance.
2. Reach places where your regular practice cannot take you.
The body is safely supported by the traction of the ropes, stretching and strengthening those hard to reach areas of the spine.
In "Yoga A Gem for Women" Geeta Iyengar recommends that difficult asanas like Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) and Plow (Halasana) are actually practiced more safely with a rope wall.
Even Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana), becomes a deeper backbend with aid of the ropes, allowing for a greater opening of the chest and an intense release of the shoulders.
3. Reap the benefits of sustained asana.
Because the body is tethered by the ropes and anchored with the feet, a pose like Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) can be practiced for a longer period of time. This gives the practitioner an opportunity to refine their breathing and go deeper into the experience of asana.
Increased circulation to the concave curvature of the lower back is extremely beneficial to all students, especially those with kyphosis, an abnormal over-rounding of the spine.
With support of a rope wall, Headstand (Sirsasana), allows the student to remain upside down for a longer period of time, without their body weight resting on the crown of the head. The body is completely allowed to release, while simultaneously hanging upside down in suspension
4. Anchor your pose and expand your movement.
There is increased mobility in the joints as the body is allowed to move beyond the range of its everyday motions.
The momentum which is created as you swing forward into Cobra Pose, then back to Upward Facing Forward Fold (Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana), brings agility and lightness while also cultivating focus and concentration.
5. You're bound to get hooked!
After you feel the immediate results, you will want to get back to the wall once, maybe even twice a week. Your bound to leave the studio walking taller and feeling more supple in your spine.
And like all asana practice it does require patience, steady regular practice and tapas or fervor, to be sustainable in one's life.
Be sure to always practice rope wall yoga alongside a seasoned teacher. Fortunately today, many yoga studios have already invested in a rope wall. So find one near you and start learning the real ropes of yoga!
Photos courtesy of shambhala yoga & dance center