Thursday, February 26, 2004
HOW TO COME UP FROM BACKBEND WITHOUT REALLY TRYING
(the magic is still here)
So yes I've been coming up from backbend for just over a week and doing pasasana (first pose in the intermediate series) since Monday. I didn't want to commit it to print because the moment I did (I thought) it would disappear -- seeing as how I spent *four months* trying to do this in 2002. (I was worried it'd be like saying, "Rumplestiltskin"). So let's hope for the best.....A blow-by-blow account follows:
SOME STEPS FOR COMING UP:
-Don't think about it
-Have Lino remind you of this in Kovalam
-Also have him tell you that doing kapotasana will teach you how to come up to standing from backbend
-Listen to him say, "Next week you will come up"
-At his playground workshop, listen to him explain for the umpteenth time that the secret of floating back and forth and up and down is to *move with the breath*
-Come to Mysore with zero expectations, other than getting sick and experiencing darshan (viewing) with Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati
-Be ignored the first several days and amuse yourself by doing many many backbends. Try rocking back-and-forth and actually taking your hands off the floor.
-Get your hair cut
-Have Sharath help you in dropbacks and tell you to walk your hands in before he brings you up. (BINGO!)
-Have Gurjuji help you in BB's and tell you not to hold your breath during dropbacks (which you didn't realize you were doing, until you were halfway to the floor).
-Have Sharath help you on the first two dropbacks and on the third one say, "Walk in your hands. Push off with your hands. Come up." (This was 2/11). And you do it, you come straight up, like he's a magnet. You are surprised it took so little effort.
"Tomorrow you come up," he says. "You do next week, you start intermediate." But next day you are sick and sleep through yoga (see dystenery entry below)
The following Monday you practice between Lino and Bettina (who's in yr old room at the Kaveri Lodge) and in front of Kiwi Bill. This is auspicious, you think. It's now or never. You rock a few times in BB and think, What IS holding me back? Nothing. You turn your feet wide and out [sorry, Iyengar folks] and rock and try to come up but push off with only one hand and fall back down. You realize you have to use both hands and go on the inhale. You try again and come up very clumsily and run back like a cartoon or David Byrne in the "Once in the Lifetime" video. You catch your breath, then sit back down and go into BB again. Same thing, you come up AGAIN, only this time Lino notices and nods. Big smile. Then a third time, rocking first to coordinate your breath you come up so askew you run back to catch your balance and almost trample Bill. But he's not annoyed. You cross your arms and stand on the front of the mat, waiting for your closeup (ie help w/ dropbacks). When Sharath comes you tell him you came up three times but admit that you did not drop back from standing -- which you haven't done since 2002, with him, in the old shala. OK, he says. Should I drop back now, you ask. "Tomorrow." After some confusion he helps you go back onto your head, and then rocks you five times back and forth. The last time you go down and walk your hands towards your feet and straighten your arms. Then he has you do it again -- and again -- and it is the most intense backbending you've done since you touched your feet in '02. "Good" he says when he brings you up and steadies you.
That night you get out your mat and see how far down the wall you can drop back. When you're just about a foot from the floor, you realize you'll probably be able to pull it off.
Next day (2/18) you awaken weak and dizzy at 4AM and do Nescafe Nauli Kriya before class. When you arrive the lobby is nearly empty. Sharath says "one more" and before it penetrates he says "Cara! You go there. In front," pointing to a spot by the stage. (He remembers your name!). You go and your practice is OK if a little weak and when backbends come your heart beats faster and you do four (one more than is standard), walking your hands in closer on the last one and rocking. You come up running backwards just a little bit, smacking the girl on your right (who apologizes to you). "No, I'm sorry" you say. You spread your feet wider than the mat, catch your breath, put your palms in prayer and slowly go back with the exhale, in super slow-mo. You finally see the floor and it gets closer and you put your arms out and land, not too hard. You walk your hands in, inhale and come up and barely stumble. You repeat it twice and Sharath comes over and you say, I did it! did you see me? And he says yes. "Muru (three) times" you say. "Next week pasasana," he replies.
Later you get a string of jasmine (Rs 60) for Guruji and tell him you did dropbacks on your own for the first time. "With Sharath?" he asks. "Alone. By myself." Good, good, he says, smiling. "Tomorrow easy practice" (ie, led primary series, no dropbacks). Of course you're sick that day and the day after, etc. and when Monday finally rolls around you do pasasana with help from Guruji and backbends and as the week goes on you find you are able to come up -- most of the time. Although occasionally Guruji catches you fumbling and helps you (The first time you usually fall back down, the second try is successful but full of slapstick comedy, the third one is better and the fourth is like ballet. More or less)....
UPDATE, TUESDAY 2/24:
So today I woke up exhausted and went to yoga and got the worst spot in the house -- the one right in front of the door to the lobby, where everyone waits, staring intently at what we're doing. And who is front and center but me. I chortled when Guruji said, "you go there" because I thought, "no WAY am I going to be able to come up from backbend in front of THAT audience." Plus I had sick people all around me, not to mention an EXHALER. This is a person who thinks ujjai breath -- which should sound like the ebb and flow of the sea / darth vader / steam iron -- is all about the exhale. They have a loud, harsh exhale, like it's a contest to see who can drown out everyone else, and a short, invisible inhale. It sounds like some old-fashioned steam train. This guy was SO LOUD I could not hear my own breathing. Worse yet, I started breathing like him. And then the audience was there to see an unusually clumsy practice. Plus it was breezy and I never broke a sweat. Sharath helped me in pasasana (first pose of intermediate series) and then it was showtime. I did four BB's. My first attempt to come up was aborted (ie, I fell). The second one was all slapstick but successful. Then it was time to drop back. I did a superslowmo in front of all of those faces -- and landed gently. I walked my hands in and came up a second time, with a little less comedy. Dropped back again and again; thelast time was worth an Olympic 8, I think. Beautiful. Then I did dropbacks with Sharath. I figure now that I've done it in front of that many people, I can really do it -- it's not a fluke or an accident. After two frustrating years I AM COMING UP FROM BACKBEND (most of the time). Very exciting.