Wednesday, October 19, 2011

becoming a scientist

"Oh, you breathing, not fearing..."
A quote from Guruji, remembered by Beryl Bender Birch as he sat on her back during an intense adjustment (American Yoga: The Paths and Practices of America's Greatest Yoga Masters - C. Schneider and A. Ryan)

I need to attempt to make friends with backbends. Even if I don't grow to love them, it would be a relief not to dread them as much as I do. Last night didn't have the drama of tears and head bashing, which is an improvement, but it still had a great deal of fear. I'm using an improvised platform to try to drop back to, just so that it's not so far away. I can bend back to where I can see the platform, but I cannot make myself go. It seems that when I reach that point my mind goes through a little freak out, I lose my breath, and then topple backwards in a very uncontrolled fashion. During Monday's incident, my feet splayed out wildly during that moment of decision, probably to reroute the sensation around the tight hip flexors. The result was that I didn't have time to remember to straighten my arms, and crashed to the floor. 

My teacher told me that I need to experiment on my own (i.e. she's not assisting...). So, I didn't really know what to do with myself last night. I felt lame that I can't get over it, and then I'll scold myself for feeling lame. Maybe this needs to stop. After thinking about it a bit more today, I remembered my friend David (another Ashtangi) told me that I needed to become a scientist of my own practice (this was during my initial struggles with headstand, which involved crash landing of a different sort). So...yes, experiment.

My experiment tonight will be to practice hanging back, without any obligation to drop back to the platform. I would like to visit that moment of panic, when I can see the platform, and just hesitate there. Can I stay there with breath? Can I remain calm knowing that dropping back is not the goal? I think that learning how to breath while hanging will be important for me to learning how to maintain control.

So, just that: hanging and breathing, not fearing. 

update: experiment results
Okay....still fearing, still fearing. The "moment of hesitation" lasted a fraction of a second before I came up, but I was able to bend while breathing. The bending was controlled. Moving in the right direction, at least. Next experiment: Raise the platform and drop back to that.

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