David Roche, Day 5: Backbending
October 27, 2011 § 3 Comments
Kept things simple at practice today. Felt a little heavy and tired at the beginning, so I skipped vinyasas between sides. Part of me was also preparing for a potentially intense dropback session with David (see previous post) and so I wanted to save some energy for that.
Not many assists during practice. Ms A came by to help in UHP, and gave tips on activating uddiyana bandha before folding forward in the Janus. Got the usual Supta K assist, and David assisted in Baddha Konasana by putting pressure on my lower back and pressing the knees to the floor. It felt SO. GOOD. Seriously, this is one of my favorite poses of the series. I could stay in Baddha Konasana A forever! In Baddha Konasana C, he kept the pressure on the thighs, leaned into the back and told me to sit tall (i.e., pushing into him) while keeping uddiyana bandha active and the chest lifted. For a skinny, wiry man, he packs a lot of weight into his torso when he squishes you in forward bends. Sorta feels like a heavy bolster pushing you down.
But that wasn’t the best. The highlight was in backbending. While I did the first couple of UDs, he came round, put his hand underneath the pelvis to lift it up while telling me to straighten the legs. This adjustment helped to really ground and activate the legs, made the upper body feel very light on the arms and provided a real stretch for the lower back. It felt like he was pulling my pelvis towards the front, which, in way, he was. We did this three times, on the last one he got me to stand up from UD, which was way easier than I thought it would be. Of course, having someone ground your weight in the front certainly helps with this!
We then did assisted dropbacks. Three hangbacks where I got really close to the mat, and two drops into backbend, walk the hands in, he did the same sacrum/pelvic adjustment thing, held for five breaths, then rocked up to standing. It was, by all accounts, a much more pleasant, less dramatic backbending experience than the previous one. Perhaps it’s because he now knows where my limits are and is stepping away from that, just a bit.
All in all, eight backbends today, a lucky number for the superstitious Chinese in me. Although I began with the familiar thick, heavy and painful knot in the right QL in the first backbend, it was gone by the time we were done, and the back felt much more open and lighter, without the tender, tingling sensation I sometimes get when I’ve probably pushed my backbends to the limit.
As I got squished in Paschimottanasana, I felt a wave of gratitude for the opportunity to study with a teacher with his depth of experience for more than just a weekend. He shared on Sunday that he’s stopped doing weekend workshops because it’s too compact a schedule to bring about any real change or progress. With a full month, at least there’s the beginnings of a teacher-student relationship of some sort, even if it’s just an annual relationship. I was most impressed (for lack of a better word) with his range of techniques for adjusting the room during backbending, adapting it for different levels and flexibility. A knowledge borne out of more than 20, maybe even 30, years of teaching experience perhaps. It’s the sort of experience that you want to take your time to savor, like fertilizer for the practice, where just a few drops everyday will go a long way. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.