What do you get when you mix a 2 hour back bend workshop, teaching a powerful beginner’s class inspired by said workshop right after, winding down fromchaos of the week with a glass or three of red wine, and old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy? Well here’s the answer: a good old cry.
Leading up to yesterday was a big day for our new project, Stega: A Perfect Union. We have been working extra hard trying to get yoga mats donated, finalize our communications with beneficiaries, set up logistical details, agree that the final cut of the official video could be posted on social media among other things. Even though it is a huge load of work, it helps that it is a passion project, which makes the “burden” feel quite light.
We have spent many hours looking at computer screens and going back and forth making decisions. Throughout all this, my project partner and I have been making sure we keep our daily yoga and meditation practice going. That is what keeps us sane. Yesterday we both decided to take Jenny Aurthur’s Backbend workshop at Yoga Works on Larchmont. I personally wanted to get a better understanding to be able to teach it better and I took Hasmig for the ride.
Well not to say that I am really enjoying and learning a lot from a teacher who I decided to “give a chance to”. I get so stuck in my ways and habits sometimes, that I don’t try new things. Especially in yoga, once you find your teacher, they are everything to you and you don’t want to stray from that. Sound familiar? Yes, I am guilty of that, too.
I know (or I think I do) of the powerful benefits of backbends induced by releasing the psoas, opening the shoulders and chest,etc. This post isn’t about that. In fact, I’ve felt most of these benefits in the past. But this week, it seemed like every teacher was conspiring to open my body in this manner. Even one of my Iyengar teachers, Paul Cabanis, who barely does back bends worked the whole class around it.
My psoas was being worked in ways to bring this relief and release that I needed. It might have been Isobel’s coma or George O’Maley dying in the episode that caused the sob fest last night, but I really think it was the yoga.
I was hoping that yesterday I would be able to get back into the bends I used to get to years ago. I remember a time when from a standing up position, I would go down into wheel. It was easy. That time, which I remember, was also about 10 years ago. Nostalgia in yoga, like in life, does not serve us, quite frankly. Our body changes constantly and even the slightest injury can move our body to a state that we don’t recognize anymore, but try to come back to that body over and over again. When we realize we are not there anymore, we stress and get annoyed.
Whether you feel anxiety, sadness, angst or physical pain when practicing backbends regularly the key is to learn how to stay with the difficult places and work through them.
Yesterday, made me realize that I can bring my urdhva dhanurasana from standing back into my practice, I just need to work on it. Yes, I have that unstable right shoulder with a labrum tear, but yesterday I realized how to stabilize my shoulders and that only happened by increasing my body awareness and good instruction. My shoulder might not be ready now, but I should give it more love by working on exercises that will strengthen it and perhaps reduce the scar tissues that surround it. That all takes work. And you know what, if I’m unable to get there, then so what?
I was reminded that back bends are key in a balanced yoga practice. I was given the tools I needed to become a better teacher when it comes to closing a sequence with backbends and not bring my students into Ustrasana (Camel Pose) without the proper prerequisites. Practice hones my knowledge of my own body, which in turn helps me read the bodies that I have to work with.