The stick is quick! But you don't necessarily have to be...
Tuladandasana is only 10 seconds. Besides which, it's the only time in class where your instructor will even voice a "time constraint" on a posture! If you're someone who often feels like you are constantly running a race against the clock, just the idea of that might get your heart sped up. But try not to let yourself feel rushed or under pressure. After all, 10 seconds can feel reeeeealllly long in Bikram yoga! ;)
Balancing stick raises your heart rate for sure, because balancing on one leg while bringing the body and leg parallel to the floor is demanding! Your heart steps up to work hard bringing oxygen-rich blood to all the muscles involved. Some claim this posture even stretches specific arteries of the heart. (We don't know of any open-chest studies done on this one, so it's really hard to say!) Without question, though, in Balancing Stick you are stretching your body. And you're using your own strength to do it, which is where you start to work the balance. Balance always refers to the balance between flexibility and the strength to support that flexibility.
Intensity and depth, as mentioned in our video, can vary greatly from person to person and day to day in this pose. It's critical to listen to the messages your body sends you, even (or especially) during such a short posture. Because it's really tempting to "throw yourself in" to this one when the teacher claps and says "step forward." Instead:
Be sure to take the time to breathe, use your breath to sustain length, and set up the form of the pose correctly using the coordination of all the participating muscles. Don't worry, even if you take a moment (or a month) longer to come down in the posture than the rest of the class, you will still have plenty of time to hold it at your maximum available that day. And if you've set it all up correctly, you'll probably be able to hold it longer! Remember: precision of alignment is always more important than depth.
BONUS: For some fun photo inspiration, follow Bikram yoga teacher Changu Changezi's group Tuladandasana Everywhere. Changu loves to do this pose... well, everywhere. ;) And you can submit your photos, too!
I started Bikram yoga when I was 39, feeling my body aging, still smoking, and scared of getting old and being sick. I suffered from depression most of my life and had been recently diagnosed with ADHD. Turned off by the many side effects of the medications being prescribed, I was interested in how mindfulness and yoga could help with rewiring the brain. Then a friend of mine turned me on to Bikram yoga while we were training for marathons. I loved the heat and the challenge, so I kept on going back.
I need discipline and good orderly direction to feel balanced in my life. Bikram yoga to me is like an ever-present life coach, always kicking my butt back into line when I have become too indulgent, too distracted, or too lazy. A bonus of my practice is that my friends say I look about 10 years younger than I am! When I am hurt, going to yoga helps me heal faster. I had a shoulder injury, and some inflammation in my elbow that were a bother, but when I stepped up my frequency, the pain went away. My pain flares up now and again, but now I know it’s just an indicator I need to get to class more often!
This past year I have experienced a great deal of grief and pain, but the one thing I have been most able to rely on is my yoga practice. It is unwavering and brings me great relief to know it is always there for me. Recently I have found myself crying in class, but Kay tells me that just happens sometimes. Yoga people (like Kay) tend to be loving and accepting, in my humble opinion after a few years of observation. I feel safe in the hot room and I can allow myself to cry when I’ve been holding onto things too long.
Yoga helps me to release and accept pain without taking it personally. Yoga has also helped me come to terms with myself completely. I am more able to accept all the parts of myself… experiencing depression, distractability and a very busy mind, as well as all of the great aspects. I understand myself more deeply through yoga.
Bikram Yoga St. Johns' studio owner, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.