Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Astanga

I had another unremarkable, but enjoyable practice this morning. I really appreciate it when I hit a stretch like this: no big breakthroughs, but no hesitation either. I’m always happy to be on my mat. But the ‘practice reports’ are a bit dull. I have so little to report!

Here’s a first: In four months at the Shala, I’ve never stood at the top of my mat to wait for an adjustment. I always just move on if a teacher isn’t available. But my Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana is SO much better with some help, so I waited in Samasthiti and focused on my breathing for a minute or two and P came over when he was free.

I worked steadily in my backbends today, but my back wasn’t very open. I could feel this as soon as I tried rocking. P helped me with 3 rounds of rocks. The third time, I was keeping my heels down and engaging my legs as I rocked, which is something, I guess. But mostly, I just felt gummy and stiff.

During my Second Practice at home, I shot a video of my last dropback and rocking attempts. Then I watched it and laughed at myself. *shakes head* It’s actually quite amazing! I didn’t think it was possible to drop back into a backbend without actually bending the back, but I seem to be pulling it off!

Here’s a one-sentence summary of my current M.O.: “I don’t like bending my back, so I’ll just bend my knees instead!”

Not to say that the time I’ve spent on these dropbacks has been entirely wasted. Keep in mind, when I started this project in late June, I was TERRIFIED of dropping back. Now I’m not afraid (even though I probably should be, given my wacky alignment!). I knew my dropbacks were not great and that’s why I filmed. What I’m feeling in my body and the visual reality of it are almost always entirely different. I wanted to see exactly what I was doing in these dropbacks with my own eyes, in order to start the ‘fine-tuning’.

The great news is, there’s a wealth of ‘fine-tuning’ available to me! The three biggest issues at the moment seem to be:

1) Lack of openness in my upper back. I’ve been ‘hanging off the box’ to work on this, but I probably need to incorporate hangbacks into my Second Practice again. As I’m dropping back, I need to work on keeping my legs straight and arching back as much as I can first.

2) Bendy knees! My back isn’t bendy, but my knees are! I need to stop relying on this ‘crutch’ in my dropbacks. I’m thinking that perhaps some work at the wall, ‘walking down’ (and up!) while keeping the legs as straight as possible might help address this.

3) In my rocking, less ‘forward’ and more ‘up’. In reviewing my attempts to ‘rock’ to standing I noticed that I’m moving forward ‘horizontally’, but there’s no lift in my hips. Most of the time, there’s not even enough lift to rock forward to my knees! If I was a rocket, I wouldn’t be leaving the atmosphere!

Straighter legs will help, if I can pull that off. Getting the hands closer to the feet (as R has pointed out) will also be helpful. I need to develop a ‘bendier’ back to do this. And I need to rock ‘up’. This feels like one of those ‘missing pieces’ of my puzzle. My body doesn’t seem to understand how to go there. I have my work cut out for me!

Tomorrow, it’s back to the drawing board. Again!


1 comment:

patrick said...

When Kino does her "Fearless Backbends" workshop, she leads a ton of lunges (everyone is pouring sweat in 30 minutes) and then really emphasizes "stick-straight legs" (and I mean over and over and over, repeating it like a mantra) as she leads the lunges and then standing backbends (hangbacks, basically).

You can work straight legs either lunging or standing. Give that a few weeks and tell me you do NOT feel it cranking hard into your hip flexors.

If you were reading my "cat-paw drops" (as Karen put it) those are also really good for hip flexory stretching.