Standing Bow Pulling -- We spend lots of time discussing the details of this pose in class. For several of my teachers, this pose seems to be a big favorite. It's pretty. And it definitely appeals to ex-dancers. I've seen two people in class doing this to near full expression, with the legs in a standing split, and it is an amazing thing to see.
Given all the class attention this pose gets, we didn't spend much time on it in the posture clinic. The main point emphasized was getting the shoulders right and feeling a good pull/stretch in the shoulders. The error most people make is to keep the shoulders too square. Instead the extended hands shoulder is really reaching out and forward, and the other one is back, creating something like a twist in the torso. Other than that, the best advice I got on this pose is that it really is 50/50 between stretching forward from the arm and kicking back on the leg.
Balancing Stick -- By contrast, I don't usually hear much about this pose in class, and there was much to say in the clinic. First, its another pose where so much depends on the arm extension. Ideally, the arms should stay behind the ears, like in Half Moon. That's aspirational, but thats also how to set the intent.
Then, to avoid "broken umbrella" syndrome, the key is not to look down. Looking down causes the back to round. The trouble I have with looking forward, however, is that I lose any fixed point and it makes the balance really hard. That's something I need to work on.
Finally, once you have got a really nice traction going between your arms and your raised leg, is getting the hip square and parallel to the floor. It's really a ton to think about in a ten second pose. Fortunately, the pose hurts like hell, so the ten seconds seems like its alot longer...
Standing Separate Leg Stretching -- I've had the priorities wrong in this pose. Here's how it should go: 1) Feet parallel; 2) Legs straight with thighs engaged (Rohit hates the word "locked"); 3) Legs spread so wide that the head can touch the floor; and 4) Grab the heels and pull. I've been putting too much emphasis on the grip, and haven't been close to touching my head to the floor. Even spreading my legs as far as I can, I still can't get my head to the floor, but its within a couple of inches now, instead of being close to a foot or so.
About the feet being parallel. The dialogue says to pigeon toe your feet. Rohit believes this crept in the dialogue because most people tend to splay their feet when they take the big step, and also because most people feel like they are pigeon toed when their feet actually are parallel.
There are two problems with going pigeon toes in this pose. First, as I found out, it can cause sciatica. That's bad enough. Worse, one of the main benefits of the pose is to open up the hips. Pigeon toed feet will tend to close up the hips. They work against the benefit of the pose.
There is a good reason not to splay the feet outward. It protects against injury. But the right orientation of the feet is the same as Awkward, with the outsides of the feet parallel to each other. The dialogue gives a literally wrong instruction, probably because it is a shorthand that works well for most people. (I see people who, after hearing the instruction, will turn their feet in some but still have them slightly splayed.)
Triangle -- It's all in the set-up, and the set-up is painful. I already knew that. The other point that's worth mentioning is that, if you are doing the pose correctly, the only way that you will touch your foot is if you have an abnormally long forearm. Otherwise, if you have the elbow connected to the knee, and the thigh parallel to the floor, your hand just will never get there.
Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee -- Here, the tips were pretty much the same as I've heard in class. Make sure you roll down, no flat back. Empty your lungs on the way down to help with the rounding bend. Use the hands on the floor for leverage to get a better head/knee connection. This is preferable to putting the hands in prayer.
He had us do an interesting experiment. Stand straight with the arms up and in prayer position. Now start moving the arms forward some and back some. Find the place where the throat is most choked. For most people, the maximum choking comes with the arms forward a few degrees -- like 15 to 25 degrees forward. That choking is the main benefit of the pose. But the pretty pose has the arms reaching forward in prayer. This last step gives an incidental shoulder stretch, but actually takes away from the main benefit of the pose. So why do it? You are supposed to be choking your thyroid, and you can do that by bringing your hands by your feet and pushing on them to get an even better compression.
That was it for the first day. We covered alot of material. And I felt some strong opening up in my hips and upper back. After class, I had the pleasant aches that I associate with the first few weeks of class.