Sunday, January 10, 2010

Backbendus Maximus

Holy Mother of Backbends, Batman.

The intermediate series is going to break my back. Literally.

OK OK, I might be a drama queen, and yes of course the first half of intermediate series is full of backbends - I didn't need to tell you that. But when you actually DO it, it actually quite literally knocked the wind out of me today.

Oh yeah, that means I was given up to Parsva Dhanurasana today, by the way. YIPPPPEEEE! So yeah, you can imagine going from Krounchasana (my last pose) to Parsva Dhanurasana (well, finishing off with that last Dhanurasana before the vinyasa)... that's like... about 6 backbend variations.

*DETOUR* I tried to find Arjuna's pictures and HOLEEEE MOLEEEE! He's updated his site and all his lovely photos are no longer available on the website! You have to download them as pdf's! ARGGHHHHH! It takes a bit of fiddling through his site to find them, so if you're looking for those old pictures, they're here *END OF DETOUR*

Oh wait. Panic over. I found them. The problem is half the site is now in German and I no comprende. (Wait. Did I just use Spanish there.)

(New link is here. I clicked on "EN" for English but it's still showing up with half the stuff in Deutsche, so lemme know if you figure it out.)

Actually, seen together like that, all those backbends look so easy. You do them in any beginner's class and it's chicken feet. BUT... put them all together after doing the ENTIRE Primary series, then holding each backbend for 5 full breaths, and having a teacher pulling and yanking your feet higher and getting you to lift as high as you can, pushing and prodding you where you need to stretch more, give more, squeeze more, lift more and oh, did I say lift more again? ...that is, going at your MAXIMUM for all of those backbends in succession of each other... All those cliches you're taught about how backbends open up all this stuff inside you and release all these things inside?

Oh yeah, they sure as hell came bubbling up today.

I think my body was in shock by the end of it. I lay on my mat and if no one had been around, I would probably have groaned out loud. I must have laid there for quite a while coz teacher yelled across the room "It's OK to continue!"

...I just couldn't believe that I had to go into closing sequences and do MORE backbends AGAIN. Uh huh. After all of that pushing, poking and prodding I STILL had to close with MORE BACKBENDS?!? So yeah folks, that's 3 more Urdvha Dhanurasanas, 3 more solo-dropbacks, 3 more whatchamacallitasanas (arms crossed in front of chest and you get dropped back halfway and dropback fully on the 4th). Good thing I had an excuse of Ladies' hols today or I would've been forced into a handstand and dropover to backbend.


Yes, that is a string of expletives.

And that's exactly how I felt after the last Dhanurasana, before I got to the closing sequence.

I was totally out of my comfort zone, my body wasn't used to being pushed so hard in something so new in a loooooong time. And I think I was white with shock just realizing how much MORE strength I need. I mean, backbends have never been an issue for me... I've always been quite bendy.

But as teacher so rightly pointed out as I was laying on my mat, mentally gearing up to keep going into more backbends in the closing sequence, she said "It's about building STAMINA now in the intermediate series".

Wise words indeed.

Screw bendiness. I need more stamina.

After getting through the Primary series and building so much strength, flexibility and stamina... you feel like you're King of the world. Well... at least I did. You feel like you can take on anything. HAHA. Yeah right.

I think it's a different kind of strength required here and for me at least, I suspect some of that is more mental than physical. I mean for crying out loud, it's only BACKBENDS! Why am I reacting so strongly?! ...and getting so out of breath so easily?

The only upshot to all of this is, when I finally got to dropbacks... my back was already well and truly cracked open and I had no need to "warm up" a bit with reverse-namaste-hands/ hangbacks etc. I just dropped right back into it and everything felt nice and loose and open. Silver lining in the cloud I suppose.

I'm dreading working this hard all over again tomorrow. SIGH.


  1. "Screw bendiness. I need more stamina."

    I think this is my new mantra for 2010 :)

  2. That bit knocks everyone out at first :) And those backbends are more about strength than bendiness, building the strong line through the back of the body. Back STRENGTHENERS. Tiring!

    I'm surprised that your teacher just gave you a whole whack of poses given what's going on in your life - you're bound to be knackered anyway without making it a time to push forward in your practice. She must want to give you stuff to work with though for when you leave..

    And good luck, by the way.. I admire how you're just going with it all!

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  5. Haha, glad to have helped, Miss Om. :p

    Hi Susan! Yeah, I thought I'd get up to Bhekasana and that's it but she kept going so I'm not complaining. ;p

    Remember how she gave me that weird chop? (Jump from parsvottanasana to paschimottanasana)... well that weird chop happened a while ago, but I was still only up to Krounchasana. Last Friday I asked her what that weird chop was for and she said "How long do you want to practice? I'm giving you more poses." So... maybe she intended to give me more but the shala's been busy and so she hasn't been able to? I dunno. I'll write about her thinking behind dropping those poses soon. Meant to do that today but backbends took over. Haha. xxx

  6. Hi! wow! Back bend smack down. Susan knows what she's saying- they feel overwhelming at first, but you'll quickly get used to them.

    If it's kicking your butt day after day and it worries you, just try putting a little less effort into primary and reserve your juices for intermediate. That's what I try to remember when my practice gets long and daunting!

    Just think how strong your drop backs are going to feel after this strength training! yea!

  7. Thanks Lizzy... that's exactly what I did today. Towards the end of Primary, I became filled with more and more dread... and then from Baddha Konasana onwards kinda took it easy (but I remembered to conserve energy too late into the primary series! i was already at the lying down poses! hahaha!)

    Good advice, you guys! Thanks! x

  8. Conserve energy within the sequence too... don't overbreathe, keep it well toned-down, and focus on which muscles to engage and which to relax, plus your nose drishti, which really helps. I find it's still one of the more taxing parts of the series, but you learn to work it without totally exhausting yourself!!


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