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Yoga Ropes by Alison West

Called Yoga Karunta, or “Puppet” Yoga—your are the puppet and puppeteer—, this form deriving from gymnastics (the English in India) and first adapted by Sri Krishnamacharya, was magnified by his student Sri Iyengar into ceiling ropes and full rope walls. Working with the ropes is one of the surest ways to enjoy effortless inversion, release the back, awaken to clarity and duration in standing, backbending and other categories of poses, increase range of motion and develop strength in every way.

When I first decided to do a Rope Certification Program so that non-Iyengar teachers and students could learn how to use the ropes safely but also inventively, I spent hours in the studio working on new ways to strengthen the body as well as to release it. Abdominal vinyasas calling upon both short and long muscle-length work, getting in and out of rope headstand through handstand, kinetic shoulderstand work in and out of the pose to develop back strength while allowing for safe neck range of movement for each student, and countless other things. Of course, it’s hard to do something new, and I’m sure that others have found their way to some of the same work.

The lovely thing about ropes is that they’re so much fun to use. But working safely—a by-word at Yoga Union—and knowledgeably requires training, practice and sensitivity. It also means developing hand, forearm and shoulder strength in a way that most asanas don’t allow for. So be prepared to feel the effort during your first classes!

We have begun to add one-hour classes to our schedule so that students can begin that process in a cheerful environment of discovery. I teach a class on , and others will be added on the weekend as well. Yoga Union is one of the few studios in NYC with such an extensive rope system. Ceiling ropes will soon be added.

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