Monday, May 24, 2010


I had a terrible practice this morning.

The Shala was HOT. As I stepped on my mat and started chanting the invocation, big blobs of sweat were already running down my face (that’s never a good sign!). My shirt was soaked before I even finished the standing poses and it was all downhill from there. I like heat and I usually handle heat well but today was NOT one of those days. I felt off-kilter and my pace was slowing to a crawl. I was stalling, futzing around between poses, mopping my face with a towel. I rarely do that stuff anymore - it was weird and discouraging.

I *knew* I was being a big baby, but I couldn’t seem to stop.

I think I was really just dreading backbends. I didn’t mind the first four because Urdhva Dhanurasana is something I *can* do. Lift from the floor, walk hands in, rock 5 times? No problem. But standing up is so FOREIGN to me, completely awkward and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to DO with my body.

It’s all fine and good that R is able to bring me up (and I’ve stopped worrying about injuring her through my own incompetence; the woman is strong like an ox) but I don’t feel like I’m *participating* in standing up. I don’t know HOW to participate. It’s maddening! I *should* be able to do this (I’m strong! My backbend is deep enough). I’m just stumped.

R implored me to breath. Hm, yes, good point! I really *was* trying, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was holding my breath out of a simple freak-out reflex.

With help, I stood up three times, very, very badly. R looked disappointed and exasperated with me. I was exhausted and shaking like a leaf, with rubbery legs. During the post-backbend Paschimottanasana squish I was shaking so hard that R actually commented on it.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Instead, I did my finishing poses, then wrapped a towel around my head so no one would see me crying in Savasana.

Oh my, the DRAMA!!! *sheepish grin*

Today is a holiday here, but my classes were still running. I rode my bicycle into the city centre and it felt so good to feel the sun on my face and the wind on my damp clothing (which had dried by the time I arrived at the gym). The ride lifted my spirits. I took a quick shower, picked up a protein bar at the variety down the street and found my second wind. I did some core work, then set up in a quiet corner to do my spiderman routine against the wall.

I worked on rocking, keeping my head down (something R had mentioned in this morning’s critique). I walked up the wall three times. At the halfway point on the wall, I kept rocking, inhaling to stand up. I noticed that when I really get going with the rocking, the heels of my hands lift off the floor. I think this is a *good* thing! I remember DR mentioning it in the backbending workshop I attended last month. It means that there’s a weight transfer happening, moving weight into the feet. This seems like it would be essential.

Maybe that’s what I need to focus on when R is working with me? Keep my gaze down, and try to push the hips forward so the heels of my hands lift?

As always, advice, comments, tips are welcome. (Grimmly, I have no idea how you learned to do this on your own, but I’m filled with admiration)

Here’s the best part: Tomorrow, I’ll schlep down to the Shala and do it all over again. I don’t want to, but I will. I’m stubborn that way. Practice and all is coming. Even when it’s not.


I didn’t forget the 70s yoga ladies this week!

Everyone has their off days! Today, one of our ladies demonstrates the starting position of a ‘Special Series for Women’:

It’s called it the Anguished Faceplant. I’m doing it right now!


susananda said...

Hahaha... yes, she looks like she could be lying there sobbing dramatically about her kapotasana or something. 'Ah! Missed my heels again.. SOB!' :)

Backbends do have a way of making us shaky, confused, causing tears to leak for no reason, all sorts of 'nervy' stuff. I guess it's the flipside to the utter euphoria on the occasions when it seems effortless..

Gaze down, hips forward and let the hands lift sounds like a good stategy. Legs and bandhas strong, and leave your head ALL the way back till the very end.

How exciting :)

Kaivalya said...

Or she's doing a VERY modified Karanda! ;-)

Thanks for the advice. 'Head back until the very end' is something I definitely need to work on. Apparently, I've been throwing my head back and forth like a heavy-metal guitarist! (I used to do that while rolling Garba Pindasana too, as if it would help me roll!! ha, ha).

I'm sure this is just the beginning of my backbend-related meltdowns. Good times :-D

Mira said...

No advice - just very inspired by your practice, honesty and perseverance. Thank you!

susananda said...

Hahaha, yes karanda.. the old dear won't get back up with that technique though :)

The head thing's important: you have to let the spine UNFURL as you stand up, so it's the very last thing. If you lift it at any other point along the way (usually because we're so used to wanting to see where we're going, and to 'leading with the head' (i.e. brain)), you'll upset the centre of gravity in the pose and you WILL crash backwards and land on said head. I only had to do that once to get it :)

Helen said...

Hey Kai, Sounds like your doing amazingly well. Getting the hands to lift off already. Most people try and lift the head up, so yes don't do it but don't be so hard on yourself either. Your working hard, it will come. Best advise I was given for standing up was do not think about coming up, think about coming forward and up will happen.

Also take extra time in your inversions after to calm the nervous system before relaxing. Backbending can be intense emotionally, a wonderful healing journey though :)

Anonymous said...

I think everyone should allow themselves a good cry once in a while, even if it is during savasana! So my advice is to cut yourself some slack. ;) You're going in tomorrow, right? There's no giving up here, just determination. You'll get there because you're continually laying the foundation.

Anonymous said...

A long time ago I took to greeting each "defeat" (in whatever asana, lack of depth in forward bend, shallowness of twist, modifications for injury, monkey-ass backbends, whatever) with a smile and maybe some laughter, even if I didn't actually feel that way inside.

For one, this eases fear. For two, it also eases self-critique, because you can't be disappointed/judgmental when you're laughing. The body does, and the mind follows. Sure, it backfires sometimes, but lead with the body, keep leading, and eventually the mind comes along.

StEvE said...


It sounds as if you have definitely reached the final frontier. Well done! Do you do the half bend (holding heels, walking your heels in and raising your hips for 5 - 8 breaths? I always finds that little treat shifts all of the clouds of anxiety away, no matter how tired you are, and gets those chakras spinning. Then I do the 3 Urdhva Dan.'s quietly, comfortably and confidently. From there, dropping back and returning to standing actually feels like 'a rest' these days and is that little trophy sitting there at the end of each practice. It sounds as if you are moments away.

Kaivalya said...

Thanks for the encouragement! I'm soaking up every bit of positive energy I can because I need it to get through my practice! And yes, I was there today and I'll be there on Friday, and on Sunday and onward (although I try not to think too far ahead right now because it makes me feel tired).

This is great advice and normally, that's my MO in these situations. I tend to joke around and laugh at myself a lot in my practice. But this backbending thing has turned me inside-out emotionally.

I must be burning through some wicked samskaras right now!!!

Ha, ha! For a moment there, I thought you were describing Chakra Bandhasana and I almost choked on my oatmeal, laughing. Fat chance, mister! But I think you're describing the bridge variation on the floor, and yes, I do a variation of that.

I love the way you describe the dropbacks/standing as a 'rest' and 'little trophy' at the end of the practice. I can't imagine feeling this way about backbends, but I'm sure it will happen eventually. I *do* feel that way about headstand and I know many struggle with that pose.

It's all a process!

Kaivalya said...

Thanks so much for your words! Thank *you* for reading! :-)