Jumpthroughasana…ok I made that up (part 1).

For my YTT blog post addressing an asana, I will discuss the sought after, mysterious and much discussed jump through. Though not technically an asana in the conventional sense, this movement is generally considered a fundamental aspect of a well done vinyasa, which book-ends most seated asanas in the Primary Series.

It is also one of the techniques most associated with Ashtanga. If you are going to consider yourself an Ashtangi, and certainly a teacher of the Ashtanga style as passed down by Pattabhi Jois, you will need to learn to perform this maneuver with skill, grace and control. As Master Paalu says; “from effort to effortless”, so we’d better start working on getting things to look effortless.

The jump through is at its essence, a dynamic  movement where the yogi transfers from Urdva Mukha Svanasana to Dandasana by passing their legs directly between their supporting arms without allowing the legs or feet to touch the mat.

The intention is to move efficiently into the next asana, but also to build control under duress. Equanimity is, after all, the ultimate goal of yoga, and the jump through is a great exercise in equanimity, along with no small amount of Tapas.

There are three areas the yogi needs to deal with if they are to expect any success with the jump-through. Strength in the various key muscles necessary at each stage of the movement, flexibility to move the body into the correct position smoothly, and mental endurance to continually practice despite what may seem like an impossible task.

Strength:

The jump through requires strength and control in several key areas. Most notably the back extensors (iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis, spinalis thoracis etc.) triceps and anterior deltoids on the entry, pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior, as well as the mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, hip flexors and rectus abdominus on the transition, and all of the above, plus the lateral and posterior deltoids as the legs pass through and extend forward.

To build strength in these areas, perform the following exercises between one and three times per week, ideally 3 sets of 10 reps each, or as much as you can do. Always make sure to allow the body at least 24 hours to recover. Without adequate rest, there is no strength building.

Back Extensors – lolasana lifts
Example

Triceps and Anterior Deltoids – diamond/triangle push-ups
Example

Pectoralis Major & Minor – wide grip push-up
Example

*if appropriate equipment is available, try ring dips to focus more intensely on the pectoralis minor.
Example

Serratus Anterior – scapula push-ups
Example

Hip Flexors – seated leg raises
Example

Rectus Abdominus – crunches
Example

Lateral and Posterior Deltoids – handstand push-ups
Example

*note – if these are too difficult, put your feet up on a chair or table, and bend at the waste for a 90° handstand push-up, eventually move to one leg straight up, then progress to the wall.

The Mula and Uddiyana Bandhas can each be worked through repeatedly locking and unlocking each one 25 times, holding for at least 5 seconds each rep.

Flexibility:

The main muscle groups that need to be flexible through the transition are the inferior portion of the latissimus dorsi, the thoracolumbar fascia, the gluteus maximus  and medius, adductor magnus and hamstrings.

Since the transition requires quick flexion of the pelvis and knees, a simple Pavanamuktasana, along with the single leg varieties on each leg, are a good choice.

Lumbar, Gluteus and Superior Posterior Leg – pavanamuktasana
Example – both legs
Example – single leg

Mental Endurance:

The final ingredient that rarely gets talked about when dealing with more difficult asanas is mental endurance. Depending on your physical qualities, the jump through can take weeks or months to acquire, and years to perfect.

My approach to this is to focus on kaizen; a Japanese word meaning gradual improvement – when attempting to progress, I endeavour to practice a little each day. I focus on technique and control, and once I feel tired or any pain, I force myself to stop. Skill development is a marathon, not a sprint, so give yourself small bites each day, and you will be less likely to get frustrated and give up.

– In the second part of this 2 part post, I will discuss the actual technique of the jump through. 

Michael Thompson – 200hr YTT Weekend Warriors