Monday, April 19, 2010


I was back at the Shala for Mysore today. It felt good to be on a ‘schedule’ again - I was actually happy to get up and go. I had a good practice, binding everything that is usually bindable including Supta Kurmasana. Since I was able to bind my hands solo, Teacher P assisted me with getting my legs and feet in place.

I rolled all of my Chakrasanas, though the one after Urdhva Dhanurasana was pretty dire. Teacher R encouraged me to bend my knees at the end of the roll (to come into a table position).The trouble is, I’m very disoriented as soon as I turn upside down. My neck is bothering me again. Since it felt fine over the weekend, I’m now sure that Chakrasana is causing the stress. I’m so frustrated! I want to learn this transition, but I don’t want to cause an injury in the process. I’ll go back to one or two rolls tomorrow until my neck is feeling better.

I worked very hard on backbending today, despite VERY sore legs from the workshop yesterday. I didn’t think Teacher R was paying any attention to me until I came down to rest after my first three backbends and spotted her beside my mat. She gave me an adjustment for the last two backbends, asking me to walk my hands in again and again, pulling on my hips to bring even more weight into my feet (I was focusing on pressing down through the heels). I thought I was going to DIE, my legs were SO tired!

Clearly, I need to build some strength! That’s what I learned in the workshop yesterday. It was an interesting afternoon.

I’ve never been up to Shala North before and was very curious to see it. The Kino weekend was sponsored by this Shala, so there was a heavy proportion of Shala North students in her workshops. I had no trouble finding it - it’s in a neighbourhood already familiar to me because my massage therapist used to have an office in the area. It’s a lovely space with two floors (and balconies!), change rooms with showers, a reception/shop area and two yoga rooms. The Mysore room has cork floors, which I love.

I liked Teacher DR immediately. He has a direct, friendly manner and a great sense of humour. This workshop did a lot to clear up some of my questions about Urdhva Dhanurasana and standing up from the pose. Most of the workshop worked toward this action and by the end, I understood why: if you can stand up, you can probably drop back too, because so much of the action is tied to strength - in the legs, in the core.

It’s like the universe leaned in and tapped me on the shoulder: “Hey Kai, THIS is why you can’t do Intermediate yet. You’re not STRONG enough.”

And it’s true. I’m not. But I’m bendier than I thought! My shoulders, in particular, are very open. My hips are pretty open too. In fact, I can come into a decent backbend, but what I *can’t* do is use the strength of my legs to draw my weight forward into the heels in order to stand up. This is what I’ve been struggling with every day at the Shala and the workshop illuminated exactly what I need to work on to make it happen.

And it’s all strength.

I won’t get into the embarrassing details, but suffice to say: I can drop back, so long as someone is holding onto me for dear life (to keep me from crashing back like a felled tree: “TIM-ber!”). In Urdhva Dhanurasana, I can’t seem to bring my weight fully into my heels unless someone stands at my knees and pulls my hips with all their might. And I can’t lift up on my fingertips, even when I rock. Even with Teacher DR’s assistance, I couldn’t get a decent rock going (though I was a champion with the Ujjayi breathing - he threw me a bone, telling the class “She’s got the breath going perfectly!” Well, at least I can breath!)

So I asked lots of silly questions and received lots of help. I was finally able to walk down a wall (which I could already do), but also walk back up the wall and push up to standing from the wall (baby steps!) I was partnered up with this incredibly strong woman who was grasping the work intuitively. She helped me a lot and gave me strong physical assistance, (which I needed) though I was never able to stand up from the backbend, even with her help.

By the end of the workshop, I understood the action of standing up, even if I couldn’t do it. I learned how to work on my backbends and I know where I need to build strength (my legs, my core). I feel so *heavy* in backbends! Rocking feels impossible to me.

One interesting element of this workshop was Teacher DR’s approach. He encouraged us to learn the ACTION (of coming up/dropping back) first, then fine-tune for the ALIGNMENT. There was a lot of experimentation with taking a wider stance with the feet, turning the toes out, strategically bending the knees, etc (within safe limits, of course, protecting the knees and low back). Basically, if we could get the action, even if the end result was “not pretty”, then it was a start. Then move on to work on the alignment.

He told us a story about watching Sharath teach in Mysore. There were many of Sharath’s students who were only half-way through the Primary Series, yet they could drop back and stand up (imperfectly, but they could do it). Once they had the general idea of it, he corrected alignment errors.

Post work-shop (today), I’m very, very sore in the legs and abdomen despite an epsom salt bath last night. My work around the city takes me up and down many, many stairs and I could almost hear my quadriceps saying: “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” as I climbed up (and especially) down. My quads also said “Ow!” as I was teaching my classes and doing the grocery shopping (I’ve started choosing my public transportation strategically in order to maximise escalators!).

I don’t even want to think about what tomorrow’s practice will feel like!


Anna said...

Thank you for sharing your workshop notes with us! The post about backbending from Kino's workshop has helped me greatly and the backbends are not "killing me" any more if you know what I mean... :-) However, I am also not strong enough and would be so glad and grateful if you would like to clarify a bit more from this last workshop about how the strength in legs and core should be and feel so I know what to work towards... I have no shala to go to so I am on my own to work on my strenght...Thank you again for sharing all the informaiton you get with us!

Kaivalya said...

I'm so glad the Kino notes were helpful to you!

In my April 20th post, I've transcribed the notes from the Shala North workshop. You'll find a lot of information there.

In terms of building strength, the two most helpful exercises (the ones that make my quadriceps yelp the most) were:
1) working against a wall and dropping the hands back to the wall, using the action of the legs to come back up.
2) Laghu Vajrasana: coming back as far as you can, then using the action of the legs to lift back up.

In both of these, you're engaging the legs and using the Bandhas, especially Uddiyana. Good luck!

Anna said...

Thank you!! Anna