On DAY 21 for Durvasana, the standing leg behind head posture subroutine, I wrote...
Standing leg behind head, it's perhaps a good time to mention that we don't have to practice the subroutines consecutively, nor are we expected to be able to do all of them. A Leg behind head posture comes up here, in the one leg sequence, but It may be a good idea to work towards the posture in the Asymmetric sequence or Supine where it also appears. The leg behind head subroutines in those sequences include more preparation than here too.
Even though I've been able to put my leg behind my head comfortably for a number of years I still tend to include a number of preparation postures. In the subroutine above we have kauranchasana but I always tend to include akrarna dhanurasana (archer) from the previous subroutine (day 28). I'll also take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby, I'm not sure if it has a sanskrit name or is even a posture.
The earlier Asymmetric subroutines are also excellent preparation for the eka para sirsasana and this is one example where keeping a number of subroutines together and following them in order may be good practice. Here are my key leg behind head preparatory postures.
Marichiyasana Day 25 where the knee is bent and we forward bend down the inside of the bent leg.
Maha mudra and Janu sirsasana from Day 27 where the hip is opened right up on one side and then the forward bend while the hip is so open.
Akrarna dhanurasana from Day 28 where the the leg is drawn back, rotating the head of the femur up and back in the hip socket
Kauranchasana from Day 28 which continues the rotation of the head of the femur as we take the leg perpendicular
Rocking the baby ( see above) where the rotation is turned inward bringing the leg into a semblance of the position it will aim to be in Eka pada sirsasana but here in front of the body.
I tend to include the above postures in an extended Eka para sirsasana subroutine
If putting your leg behind your head is not available to you at this time you might work towards it in this subroutine by simple putting your leg over your shoulder, your right leg over your right shoulder say. I practiced chakorasana this way for quite some time. Go through the subroutine in the same way perhaps including the preparatory postures I mention, taking the usual breath count, gradually working towards the full expression of eka padasirsasana.
Getting the leg behind the head
If your already able to put your leg behind your head it's still important to make sure your sufficiently warmed up and stretched out. The Utkatasana is a good place to start for the work on the hips, uttanasana for the forward bend and I highly recommend the Uthita padangusthasana and especially the standing marchi subroutines. The standing marchi will do a good job of pushing your hip back.
For leg behind head postures in general I made a video recently on approaching the posture in Vinyasa Karma. In the video I approach the standing LBH from seated, putting the leg behind my head and then moving into the LBH forward bend Skandasana or Richikasana. Here's the link
Bring the foot into the rocking the baby position ( take the hip back as in the archer pose and then bring my leg from my foot to my knee parallel to my chest while supporting my foot with one hand and my knee with the other, I think of this as rocking the baby) take the leg outwards, rotating in the hip socket then bending then unbending at the knee bring the leg over in a circular motion dipping your head under the leg.
When dipping under the the leg slightly twist in towards the inside of the knee, as the foot settles behind the head you can the straighten out of the twist taking the leg a little further and more comfortably over the shoulder.
Shuffle the foot a little further behind with your shoulder, you want to have your leg far enough around that the foot isn't pushing too strongly on your neck.
I used to try and pull my leg as far behind my head, as far over towards the other shoulder as possible, now I like to take my leg just over my head but as far over to the leg side as possible, this allows me to then shrug my shoulders further through and seems to allow the lag to settle lower and ultimately deeper. this is perhaps more easily seen on the video link above.
It's advisable perhaps. to have done some work on back bending postures to make your back stronger before moving on to leg behind head postures.
I've just noticed the forward bend in Eka para sirsasana picture is missing from the above practice sheet (a new practice sheet will be on it's way shortly).
Before folding forward try to stretch tall out of the pelvis just as in all other forward bends.
Lead with the chest
there is a slight twist as we bring our body over the outstretched leg
Reclining into Skandasana
Before reclining backward we want to again try and stretch out of our hip just as we have seen in the on your feet/tadasana postures.
Ground the heel, better to allow the knee to bend than let the leg come up and flap about as the grounding of the heel will give you some control and stop you from rolling over to the side.
There is a reclining version of Skandasana in the Supine sequence where you put your leg behind your head in supine, this is good to know as your head popping out from behind the head while reclined is not a disaster.
To return to Eka pada sirsasana bring your outstretched leg up over your head far enough to give you some momentum as you rock backup to seated.
Place your hands forward of your hips and push down through the mat lifting your body.
Raise your outstretched leg towards your face (eventually you will be able to bring your face to your knee while lifted) by rocking your hips forward.
NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloadedHERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.