Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ankles crossed, fingers touching

Four words. Four very very very very happy words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I did most of it myself!!!!!!!!!!!

Things were just clicking today. I think it had something to do with what I have been working on at home.

Yesterday, I had this major epiphany about Mari A and B, two poses that are crucially important to building a workmanlike Supta Kurmasana (yeah, yeah, I said it. Supta Kurmasana. See? I said it again; I have no willpower. It is my true nature. I acknowledge it. And now, I will let it go....).

The discovery? I need to reach my OTHER arm around at the same time that I am reaching the binding arm around, or as quickly as possible thereafter. That way, there is something for my binding arm to hold onto so that the pose can actually "begin". This brings me MUCH deeper into the posture in both A and B. And on the second side in B, I actually touched my forehead to the ground today, although I wasn't doing a wrist bind - close, but not quite.

So, why does it matter whether I am binding at the wrist, the fingertips or somewhere in between? See, in my mind, there are three kinds of approaches to binding. One is the "grab whatever you can" approach. That's where one might start in a challenging binding posture. The final is the wrist-grabbing approach. The wrist-grabbing approach pre-supposes that both arms are INTERNALLY rotated so that the wrapping arm can grab the other arm firmly OVER the wrist. In between is the third approach, an intermediate approach, where there is a strong and solid bind, but the arms are not quite properly (read: INTERNALLY) rotated to make a proper wrist-bind possible.

In Mari A, I have the wrist bind. In Mari B, I can get myself into the intermediate bind, but with assistance, I can get the wrist, although when I get the wrist, I don't think I can touch the floor with my head. In Mari C, I have the intermediate bind, but on a really good (read: JUICY JOINTS) day, I can be put into the wrist bind with a LOT of work from my teacher. In Mari D, I am USUALLY in the intermediate bind and sometimes in the "grab whatever you can" bind. The "grab whatever you can" bind happens mainly when I am feeling rushed or suffering from a bloated tummy (like this past week when I was still suffering the Z-Pack Blues).

(Sorry for using the word "intermediate", by the way. I am not using it to suggest Intermediate Series, but rather the middling level of binding competency.)

This all is why I will be able to bind Supta Kurmasana eventually, and perhaps sooner rather than later, and why I am nowhere near ready for Pasasana. Mari A and B correspond to Supta Kurmasana. Mari C and D correspond to Pasasana. Supta Kurmasana is like Mari A and B on acid. Pasasana is like Mari C and D on acid. Or so it seems, from someone who has never really done it.

I had another epiphany in my home practice, a slow dawning really, of the idea that every entry into a half lotus is an opportunity to take my about-to-lotus leg, bend the knee deeply and aim that knee behind my torso, then straighten the knee and bring the about-to-lotus foot up towards my ear, forehead or even the back of my head. Each half lotus of Primary brings me closer and closer to Supta Kurmasana and brings my about-to-lotus leg closer to an Eka Pada Sirsasana position, without actually doing Eka Pada Sirsasana. Oh, and this also is a great prep for Janu Sirasana C, which I can now easily do (to vertical) on both sides. And none of this is particularly embarassing or awkward for me to do in a classroom setting, unlike some of the other Supta Kurmasana R&D I do at home (like binding in Parsvakonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana...).

Finally, one last epiphany that made a HUGE HUGE difference in my practice today: Flat palms. I know, I know, this is not news. We are supposed to keep our palms flat when we jump back, when we jump forward, when we do Uttanasana, when we look up from Uttanasana right before we jump back, in Urdhva Dhanurasana, etc.. But I have this habit of rocking forward onto my fingers. A while ago, I discovered that this was killing my Urdhva Dhanurasana by giving me a shaky foundation for opening my chest and shoulders. Flat palms solved that problem. Yesterday, I made myself keep my palms flat throughout Surya A and Surya B jumpbacks and jump-forwards. I didn't adhere to this rule during seated because, well, come on, as I have demonstrated, I only have so much willpower.

But I did adhere to the flat palms rule in two very important places in Primary: Bujapidasana and Kurmasana. When I jumped forward, instead of jumping my legs as for out in front of my hands as possible, I merely jumped my legs as far as I could before feeling like I had to start lifting up with my palms. This meant that when I landed, my palms were flat. I inhaled and got myself easily and gracefully into Bujapidasana. I believe that this trick will eventually permit me to jump right into the posture. A ways, a long ways, down the road. Conversely, I really don't see how I would EVER jump straight into Buja without my palms firmly grounded. Think about it.

Somehow, this same mechanism for jumping forward puts me much more into the "right" position for a really good Kurmasana - feet flexed, heels lifted and chest pressed to the floor. And a good Kurmasana, one in which I am not panting or groaning, sets me up for a good Supta Kurmasana....

So, today, Sir was giving dropbacks to another student while I was in Kurmasana. And so, after eight breaths or so, I bent my knees, pressed my shoulders to the floor as much as I could, grabbed my handtowel in my right hand, crawled my arms around and UP my back, flipped my hand towel over my back so that my left hand could grab it as well, and then crossed my right ankle over my left. I then let my forehead relax to the floor and felt my arms "lengthening" across my back as my chest sunk under my legs. Then Sir came over, got rid of the hand towel, pressed on my elbows to bring my hands closer together....and voila.....

Ankles crossed, fingers touching!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sir leaves tomorrow morning for three months in India. When I was saying goodbye to him in his office after practice, I had to mention Supta K. I had to. So, I said, "Not bad today in Supta K, right?" What do you think was his response?

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"It's NEVER bad."

Ah, yoga. It's so easy to forget you're doing yoga when you're practicing asana.

YC

4 comments:

Jody said...

congrats on the bind!

Anonymous said...

i love that you call your teacher Sir in your blog. when i was in NYC i had a fabulous adjustment in supta kurmasana from Guy. he just kept saying "just relax" instead of trying to muscle myself into it, and he was able to just wrap me into the asana. it was the most fully i had been in supta k ever up to that point. i try to remember that when i come into it now, just relax.

John said...

I thought you were going to stop talking about supta kurmasana? :)

Sue said...

Great to hear that you got a bind! That's a nice explanation of the types of binding. I never thought of it as an internal rotation of the arms.

Thanks for the Supto K tips by the way.

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.

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