Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another day, another round of backbending

I'm wondering when, if ever, it is going to feel soft and relaxed, like Mari D, or any of the poses leading up to Mari D. I lie on my ball every day now, before and after class. I feel that it's making a difference in that I can be more vertical at the wall when I go to begin my full wheel at the wall, with the heels of my hands pressed against the wall, belt around my arms, chest and chin pressing toward the wall.

My arms just don't follow that curve down the ball though. Not yet at least. I remember the first days of Supta K, when I was surprised to find that no matter what any teacher did, I just COULD. NOT. BIND. I just could not. The hands did not reach. I could get my hands to the floor in Prasarita Pado C. I could bind in all of the Marichyasanas. But the hands would not reach in Supta K. Even with assistance. And that is the part that got to me. I was thinking - if I can't be put into this pose even WITH assistance, what hope is there for me of ever getting into it at all?

That's sort of what I am feeling about backbending. No matter what anyone does for me, I still can't stand up correctly on my own. I either fall to my knees, or I drop my bum down so that I stand up like a crazed orangatang jumping from a high branch. And then there was a new varation today - the one hand dragging behind me, propping myself up so that I wouldn't take variation A or B. Of course, this was RIGHT after I swore up and down to two CT shala mates that I have no issues with coming up unevenly from a backbend. Ha. Always proving myself wrong. Eh, it's a living.

On the positive side, because there is a LOT of positive side to my practice these days, I am now able to do every single posture of Primary Series without any flailing around, fidgeting or prep work. And in Mari C, I am learning to wind my binding arm around without using my other arm as a guide. This is probably nothing new to anyone, but for me, there is almost no intelligence in my rotator cuffs. Or no natural intelligence. If anything, it's like artificial intelligence. I have to train those cuffs over and over again, and then over and over again some more, to aim my arms in the correct angles to make binding possible and/or deep.

This, of course, relates to my getting into Pasasana. It goes without saying that there is no way that I can possibly be able to bind Pasasana on my own if I cannot throw my binding arm around my legs and inch it up to wait for the other arm to snake down my back, WITHOUT having to use said other arm to guide the binding arm into the correct angle for binding. Thus, I need to begin to train my empty-headed shoulder joints to articulate in the proper way in a variety of poses.

For example, I am practicing Gomukhasana arms every day. No news there. But now, I am working towards getting the bind without using either arm to guide the other. In particular, I am trying to get my right arm up behind my back to wait for the left hand to come up from above my left shoulder without needing to use my left hand to help the right into the correct angle. Sometimes, the right arm seems to know what it is doing. Other times, not so much.

I found today that if I mimicked the squat of Pasasana in getting into Mari C, I could throw that binding arm around and simply reach around and grab the other hand.

The other thing I am doing in Mari C and D is taking five breaths with the wrapper as the grabber, and then without unbinding, I simply change the grip and have the wrapper be the grab-ee. The opening up of my chest from this variation on each side is quite nice.

What else am I doing these days in my practice? Let's see...I am learning to balance fully on my hands in order to float back to chatturanga, rather than jumping back. It is going to take some time, but it is a logical outgrowth of what Mark was working on with me this summer: the flat hands in jumping back and jumping forward. I'm pretty consistent now with the flat hands, and sometimes I feel like I've caught air. It's definitely way more challenging for me to jump through with bent legs, sloooowly and with control, then to wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee, jump my straight legs through, Hail Mary style. Even though the latter looks much cooler. The former is way more intelligent.

And the former prepares me for jumping straight into Bujapidasana. Now, for some reason, I am able to jump nicely into Bakasana, but I can't for the life of me keep the damn heels of my hands from peeling off the floor when I try to jump my legs around my arms in Buja P. I land my feet at the moment I begin to feel the peel. Don't want to be breaking fingers or my nose. I end up with my feet pretty much where I want them other than the fact that they are on the damn floor. At that point, I just lift and Buja P, voila. Unlike the old days where I used to do that whole dance of squishing my legs around my shoulders.

Today for the first time I tried the same drill for jumping into Kurmasana. Unfortunately, it left me a bit ill-prepared for Supta K. But doesn't Sharath come out of Kurmasana entirely to get into Supta K? That would seem to make a lot of sense, even if you're NOT going the Dwi Pada route to Supta K. So, anyway, I had to come out of Kurmasana entirely and slide my arms back under at a better angle in order to bind. And even so, Val had to help me make the bind today, which has not happened much at all lately. Still, I almost bound wrists, so that's good.

As for my endurance, I remember the days when I started really losing my vinyasa form at about Mari A. Now, I can do the entire Primary Series with the vinyasas set out in John Scott's book - you know, balancing one shin against an arm and jumping out of postures like that.

OF COURSE...and this is the whole point of this bragadocio post....NONE of this would be possible for me with a longer practice. There simply wouldn't be the time or the energy. So, even though a part of me longs to do all those backbends in Second Series, and that same part of me wonders why Val isn't teaching me those poses despite that I can do Pasasana with heels down (with help), and most people whom she has moved past Pasasana and all the way through Supta Vajrasana can barely bind Pasasana and can't bind Mari D without help. MOST. Not all. But most. See, Val believes that some of the later poses can help some of the earlier poses, and vice versa. So, I wonder - if she knows that my backbends need serious help, why not give me the rest of those backbends? MAYBE she sees me making enough progress with just what I am doing with Urdhva D?

OK, woa. I refuse to analyze what my teacher is thinking. It's so oooky when I see all the brain damage caused by people trying to figure out what their teacher (let's call him, um, "Schmishtofer", because I don't want to offend anyone) is thinking and assuming they know what "Schmishtofer" is thinking and why he, "Schmishtofer", is doing whatever he is doing and blah blah blah BLAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ACCCCHHHHH!!!!!!!

That's all.



Carl said...

I don't get the business about throwing the binding arm around. Why do it that way? It seems like it gains nothing over just sticking the arm where it needs to go. Except that now and then you might pimp-slap the person practicing next to you. They might deserve that.

YC said...

OK, not "throwing", but STICKING the arm where it needs to go, without using the other hand to edge it into place.

laksmi said...

relaaaaaax. there's plenty of time. you'll get more poses--that's for sure. this is one of your lessons, yc--remember supta k days? not so long ago! relaaaaaax. Oh, and keep that damned head BACK--that's why you sit on your butt coming up from a backbend. And dropping to your knees is because your legs are not STRAIGHT and grounded. I do three of what I can 'my lucky magic dropbacks' every day BEFORE dropbacks. I never do dropbacks without these because they are, as I said, lucky and magic. They go like this: stand as if ready for dbks. Hands on hip, even on lower back on top of sacrum. inhale lift the chest, lengthen the neck, go back and back until you can see where the wall meets the floor. exhale and come up. repeat, going a little lower each time. You will NOT be trying to get anywhere near the floor. the purpose of this is to send a message to the legs, which is 'hello, legs, wake the fuck up because you are going to haul my ass up from a backbend in just one second,so GET READY'. Then, do your regular dropbacks.

Clare said...

Backbending is an aspect of yoga that I really don't enjoy that much. I blame my shoulders. I am sure the ball thing is great and does help, but I have to say I do respect Paul Grilley's opinion on this: Paul Grilley.
A friend and I did his shoulder test thing, and I have about as much motion in the shoulder as the man in the video! I also have the sticky out elbows when I backbend.

This may not be your issue, but I thought I would throw it into the ring anyway!

YC said...

Clare...wow! That Grilley video is pretty powerful stuff. I thought I would scoff at it, to be honest. I wished I could scoff at it. But the truth is, this IS one of my issues. I always feel like bone is grinding against bone when I try to bring my arms straight up and back. That said, I don't believe that I can't work around it, somehow, with the right flexibility in areas that have give, areas that are, as he said, "tensile" in nature. But for now, I just got up from laying on a ball with my arms spread at angles and I was finally able to touch the baseboard molding behind me (not yet the floor...but all is coming, right?)

laksmi said...

You should visit my blog for the lowdown on Mr. Grilley. Hmmph.

Clare said...

I think Mr Grilley talks some rubbish too, but I like to use his shoulder analysis as my excuse for my poor urdhva dhanurasana!

When I went to his workshop last year, I challenged him on some of his theories during one of the breaks and he blustered a bit, then had his wife come and interrupt me so I would stop asking tricky questions!

laksmi said...

tyler just has a crappy backbend. let's face it.

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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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