In some of our classes lately, my teacher Pio Baquiran has been making us try jump-throughs as transition from downward dogs. What we do isn’t even the full jump-through where you swing both legs forward and through your arms from Downward Dog and land with both feet straight out in front of you in a seated position. What Pio makes us do is land with legs crossed. And even that is quite a challenge.
There are days when I get through, barely. On other days, I kind of land awkwardly with a thump, cross-legged. And there was a time when I almost toppled forward as one of my legs snagged against an arm. I also get that tensed-up feeling whenever we are asked to do this — maybe because of an innate fear of falling again.
So once again, off to the internet I went trying to find out what suggestions were out there to make jump-throughs less “painful”.
Tim Miller, an Ashtanga student and a writer for Yoga Journal, makes this suggestion for those new to this transition:
To build a sense of confidence and competence, first try this maneuver with blocks under the hands. From Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), exhale and bend the knees deeply so the ribs come back against the thighs, lift the heels and allow the hips to descend. Keep the hips as low as possible as you spring forward. Ideally, the body stays in a full forward bend even as it comes through the arms.
Remember to support the movement with your breath. Jumping through at the end of an exhalation, when you are completely empty of breath, is best because the exhalation also facilitates deeper movement into the forward bending position. You will also find strength and support by engaging the abdomen and pelvic floor in Uddiyana (Flying Up Lock) and Mula Bandha (Root Lock). So as you set yourself up to jump through, remember to exhale, keep the bandhas engaged, remain in forward flexion, and stay close to the ground.
However, he and David Swenson differ in some other ways. Tim suggests that since the legs are longer than the arms, they must be kept as parallel to the floor as possible during flight to successfully come through. He says that the mistake new students to this make is keeping their hips high so that the legs remain vertical.
In the Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual, however, David Swenson’s original insights on the “physics of flight” suggest that we imagine ourselves like a ball being hurled across a room with a high ceiling. Unlike a low ceiling where you need to hurl the ball straight ahead and with great force, throwing a ball in a room with a high ceiling means less force and the ball actually makes a high, graceful arc which we want for our jump-throughs.
Just imagining the 2 suggestions, I would think David Swenson’s suggestion might work better for me. But I would imagine this requires practice, practice, practice before I can even make this transition gracefully and seamlessly.
And hopefully, some day, I can do a jump-through that looks like this: