In this video Richard demonstrates Tāḍāgī Mudrā, the pond mudra, which is like a stiffened version of the corpse pose. It’s a pose that Pattabhi Jois used to include in the Ashtanga Vinyasa series but has since been lost. I have found Tāḍāgī Mudrā instrumental in correcting (my own) pelvic alignment, though it felt awkward to me at first. Instructions from the Gheranda Samhita, a classical hatha yoga text from the late 17th century, was descriptive if not helpful: “Make a stomach full of lake,” it said. “This is the Tāḍāgī (lake-like) Mudrā, the destroyer of decay and death.”
Hmmm. You might be better off starting with Richard and Mary’s simple step-by-step instructions from The Art of Vinyasa. Those of you who feel like your back arches too much in this pose should read this post till the end.
Lie down on your back with legs together, the big toes lightly touching, as if in samasthitiḥ. Turn the palms down so that the thumb and index finger of each hand is on the floor.
Roll the shoulders back and down. Press (gently) the back of the head into the floor. Tilt the chin down slightly, as if the skin on the back of the head were being spread and pulled up like a cobra’s hood.
Using smooth ujjayī breathing, keep the gaze steady, soft, and downcast to release the palate. “Nasagra drishti” means the gaze falls on the nose (but if this is difficult, then looking downward along the line of the nose is fine).
Allow the breath to fine-tune the subtle alignment of the body.
Soften your mouth and smile softly to yourself. Listen to the sound of breath, paying special attention to the ends of the inhales and the exhales and the gaps in between breaths.
If you stay in this pose long enough, you’ll see that it brings awareness to the core of the body. If you stay long enough, you’ll find that Tāḍāgī Mudrā is actually quite pleasant, as delicious as a good pranayama practice. But you have to stay awhile, with open ears.
To improve the quality of Tāḍāgī Mudrā (and also the corpse pose), try this:
Carefully lie down on the mat, unrolling the spine one vertebrae at a time (the abdominal muscles help slow down this process), so that when you first arrive in the lying down position, before you fully relax, your back is sort of flattened and you have very little, or no, lumbar curve. (In other words, the pelvis is tilted back more than it will be when you relax.)
You will catch the sticky mat a bit higher up your spine, and so when you finally come into a fully relaxed position, it will be almost as if the mat is gently pulling your lower back into slight traction. (This can help minimize the sense that your back is arching too much.)
Simultaneously, as you relax, the stickiness of the mat can lightly pull the skin in the back of your skull upward, creating relaxing sensations that are fun to observe and delicious just to soak in.
The full expression of the pose involves holding the breath out and sucking the diaphragm up and into your ribcage, but we don’t typically go that far in any of my classes.
To experience the pose in an even deeper way, The Art of Vinyasa goes on: “This classic mudrā demonstrates why mudrā . . . cannot be achieved through force, but requires strong, focused, and consistent practice. Bandha (and eventually mudrā) practice must be carried out for the sake of the practice itself, with no sense of striving, if it is to evolve into full form. There must be no attachment to the fruit of the practice. Otherwise the mind gets involved, makes overly simple reductionist formulas, and then tries too hard. Ego slips in and co-opts the situation.
“Bandha and mudrā practice is what a vinyāsa practice really is: the sequential joining together and separating of complementary opposites as a means of staying present, mindful, and alert to the feelings, thoughts, sensations, and insights that may—or may not—arise.
“This joining together might seem an abstract and confusing task, yet it is actually something we do all the time, whether or not we’re even aware of it. For instance, you may think, ‘I want to be wide awake and eager, and I want to be relaxed too.’ For most of us, these mind states are total opposites. So throughout the week you drink coffee, and Friday night you drink beer! Through yoga, we learn to manifest both mind states simultaneously.”