Backbending, Shambhala Meditation
February 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
Practice has been up and down, but overall on an upward trend compared with the situation about a month ago, I’d say. After my last post about an exhilarating practice, yoga the following day was less thrilling in comparison, but still way, way better than up to two weeks ago. And on Sunday, I felt as if I was being propelled through my practice by some invisible energy. For some reason, there was a real urgency in my practice attitude – absolutely no faffing, a lot less looking around and a strong focus on the openings that were going on in my hips and hamstrings. What was even more surprising to observe was that there was no shortness of breath or an anxious sigh after particularly strenuous asanas like Bhuja and Supta K, despite the fast pace. It was one of those days – when you know it’s going to be an outstanding practice from the first Surya A. The body feels strong and light, the mind is clear and the breath is slow and steady. I was on such a high it was all I could think and talk about for the few hours afterwards. Fortunately, the husband came to practice too so it was more of an Ashtanga conversation than a monologue over Sunday breakfast 🙂
I’ve reflected, but have no answers for this spate of glorious practices. The increased frequency (4 times compared with twice a week) probably had a lot to do with it, but I’m also wondering if that fantastic backbend assist I got a week ago had a part to play as well? Since then, I’ve noticed how the backbends are really opening up my upper back and shoulders – an area of chronic tension and aches, particularly after the auto accident last September. I’ve also read that back-bending is stimulating for the nervous system….maybe I’ve unlocked some ‘hidden channels’ of energy in my spine??? Sounds very woo-woo to me, but after a year of Ashtanga, I’m a lot less skeptical about lines of reasoning that cite the body’s energy pathways. Whatever the cause, I’m treasuring every minute of these practices, because the ‘high’ from them will sustain me through the crappy ones, which I expect are just round the corner in the lead-up to LH.
Last week I took the plunge and decided to approach a local Shambhala meditation center about learning how to meditate. They meet twice a week on Wednesday evenings and Sundays, but newbies spend their first session in an ‘instruction’ class – basically learning their posture, the attitude and a bit of background about the Shambhala tradition. I’ve hemmed and hawed about joining them for the longest time, for a couple of reasons, but primarily because I thought that meditation was a personal activity (which it is), so why would I need to go somewhere to do it when I could just do it on my own at home? After about two months of trying unsuccessfully to start a daily 15-minute meditation practice, I decided that joining a group wouldn’t hurt. Having only read about Vipassana meditation techniques up til then, I was surprised to see that (1) everyone sits on a comfortable meditation cushion, (2) no one is in Padmasana and (3) the eyes are kept open, not closed.
In my 5 minute ‘trial’ session, I found myself wondering how anyone could keep their eyes open for that long without them drying out! Lots of blinking was involved (perhaps its the contacts I was wearing), but on the upside, the soft gentle gaze was a lesson in drishti!!! Gazing, but not focusing on the few inches of rug in front of me, I began to see how the visual sense, when correctly applied, really helps calm the mind. I applied this insight to practice in the days after the first session (when I remembered to do so) and it was interesting to observe how the correct drishti really turns the mind inwards (duh!). You start to become really aware of the pose that your body is in, start to understand and really listen to what your body’s telling you. Not quite Pratyahara 101, I imagine, but definitely a step in the right direction!