Sunday, July 11, 2010


I slept in this morning, then staggered out of bed with a tremendous ‘food hangover’. I even had a headache! I was not diligent at all about avoiding gluten this weekend and now I have mystery rashes all over the place. Who gets a rash behind her ears? Apparently, I do. Argh. That’ll learn me!!!

It’s a Moon Day, so the Shala was closed. But I was really keen to get out of the apartment and practice somewhere. I checked out Studio Central’s schedule and realised that a really cool Astanga teacher teaches a morning led class there. I spontaneously decided to check it out.

When I arrived, I introduced myself and gave JB a heads up about my left hamstring. We ended having a great conversation about hamstring injuries.

JB’s a friendly guy, great teacher, and really knows his stuff. I feel like I should nickname him ‘Shoulder Guy’ because almost all of his feedback was related to my shoulders (and relaxing them). It’s always valuable to have a new set of eyes examine my practice. I like this studio because all of the instructors are very alignment-aware and I almost always walk away with some good nuggets of wisdom.

The class was an hour-and-a-half, led half-Primary. My only gripe was the lack of Sirsasana, but everything flowed well and I had a really nice practice.


This week’s State-of-the-Backbend is a special ‘video edition’. Some of you have already guessed what my ‘secret project’ is and I feel confident enough about it now to ‘fess up:

I’m working on dropbacks.

I started last month by dropping back against a wall and doing some hangbacks. This was helpful for opening my back (and building core strength; that’s when I had the achy upper ribs), but it didn’t do a whole lot to help me overcome my fear of dropping back.

Among the many suggestions for moving through my hamstring injury (And those suggestions were coming fast and furious - evidently EVERYONE has an opinion about gimpy hamstrings! Even my hair stylist weighed in!), one of the simplest was just to *walk*. Susan suggested this and I was skeptical, but something Grimmly posted on a forum confirmed that walking was helpful to him and I heard from a few others as well.

I started walking to the Big Park every day to exercise my hamstring. And the Big Park has HILLS! A couple years ago, I tried dropping back onto a slope in the park. Even with that little bit of height, it was terrifying and I never repeated the experiment. I wasn’t strongly motivated to.

But now I am!!! Last week, I decided to give it another go, and I was happy to discover that it’s not scary at all!

Every day, I’ve been walking to the park and dropping back on that hill. I’ve gradually reduced the steepness of the slope by moving downhill a bit each day.

Five days ago, I got *really* brave and decided to drop back without the hill! It wasn’t pretty, but I did it! And I came perilously close to womping my head on the ground too! Susan’s feedback was: “STRAIGHT ARMS!” And she was absolutely right! I was bending my arms too much on the landing. Need more Pingu!!! ;-)

So I moved back up the hill to a steeper slope and worked on keeping my arms straight on the landing.

I’m rarely ‘Bad Driste Girl’ at the Shala, but I do sometimes spy on my teacher, R, as she’s dropping back. She’s amazingly graceful and has so much strength and control as she drops - her hands are practically hovering over the floor when she finally lands. This is the image I’ve carried in my mind as I’ve worked on my own dropbacks.

For the past few days, I’ve been focusing on the straight arms, of course, but also on hanging back as I push my hips forward, shifting weight into my feet for counterbalance as I bring my arms back behind me, then trying to hang for as long as possible before dropping.

It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting the knack! Today, I made little video. Here it is:


sarah said...

Thank you so much for sharing your joyful, courageous, amazing, perseverance and grace. I am astonished and thrilled. When my shoulder feels better, I'll be tempted too.

Liz said...

The video is brilliant. I almost don't care what you're doing because the setting is so great!

Congrats on the drop backs and the injury healing.

Helen said...

Well done kai, your drop back is beautiful. You have worked so hard for this it is wonderful to see it! I was taught to bring my hips forward as I took my hands back. This helps control the landing as well as opening the upper back. Just a thought, you are already doing a great job!

Jess said...

Yay! How exciting!

Arturo said...

hi Kai
yay. that is beautiful. now a question for you. did you see where you were going to land before you did? because i'm getting better or closer at seeing where i'm going to fall, but i still don't see my mat, so i don't go all the way back in the shala. i suppose that i could take the leap of faith and rationalize that my hands will be there to break the fall once my knees are so bent beyond the point of no more standing. but i have been told that the moment to drop is when you see where you are going to land - the mat. i only see the practitioner behind me.


Anonymous said...


Seriously, to this beginner, you are doing something that seems impossible. :) Your dropback looks so graceful and controlled. Congratulations!

Ragdoll said...

What teacupdiaries said - amazing and quite inspiring.

Christine said...

Go Kai!! Beautiful drop-back!

Kevin said...

That's brilliant Kai,congratulations, its such a buzz the first time you land it. I kinda guessed what your "project" was, as I had the same one going on for a while.

I have Susan on the mat next to me most weeks, though she refrains from saying "straight arms", her backbend is incredible, its an inspiration when you can see someone get that level of control.

Seems like we are both now on stage 2 - the standing up thing!

Kaivalya said...

Everyone - thanks so much for the supportive and happy comments! :-)

Yes, I can definitely see exactly where I'm landing and I agree with your teacher - you need to see the floor because that means you have enough arch in your back to land safely.

I can't stop looking at the photo of Susan taken at the Kino retreat, in that deep, deep hangback. Beautiful and inspiring!

And yes, onward to standing up!

Lindsay said...

I am so inspired by this video - way to go! I love following your progress with back bending and drop backs because I have the fear, bigtime!