David Roche, Day 9: The Arc Of The Practice
November 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
Every time I step on my mat, in the dim morning light, I do it with the intention of practicing with awareness. Of feeling each inhale and exhale. Of staying with the breath, the present moment, so that I may go deep into the intricacies of each pose. I set the intention of folding forward from my core, of jumping back while keeping it engaged, of lifting through the sit bones. That I may have an active awareness of every muscle in the body that emanates from the root. That I may realize that speed does not matter, neither does form, or quantity of poses completed.
Then I inhale and lift up my arms, and by Parivritta Trikonasana, all the intentions have gone out the window. My breathing has shortened – so that I may hasten the passage of the standing poses – and the turning of the head allows me to pick up on the other goings on in the room. By this stage I have made countless reminders to myself to focus on deepening the breath, and my resolve is waning. I start to get impatient with myself, and this is the beginning of the end.
The physical practice continues, but the mental practice sags along like a deflated balloon, that I have to drag with me for the next 45 minutes or so until Savasana. Some days, like today, there is anger that builds and compounds with each seated posture, as that niggling twitch deep inside my right hip just won’t go away no matter how much I stretch. I get concerned about the dense and foggy ache of the right QL in every upward dog, and anxious as well, as each vinyasa marks the progress of the practice, like a metronome, ticking away the time and bringing me closer to that segment of the practice that I now fear the most: back-bending.
With the stresses of “nailing” the Bhujapidasana and Supta K exits behind me, my fortitude takes a break in the rest of the series, not for lack of interest, but because my mind is already a couple of asanas ahead. What will today’s backbending be like? Should I try hanging back? Should I push it? How much can my back take? Am I going to fall?
And on and on, goes the monologue of anxiety and fear.
Then that moment comes. I faff. Straighten out the yoga towel. Retie my hair. Spend a few more seconds than usual getting my feet into position. I go up in the first backbend and it’s so painful that tears come to my eyes. I collapse onto my back and want to just curl into a ball and weep. But somewhere inside me, there’s a voice that says ‘one more’. And so I go up again, this time, the pain is a touch less intense. I am encouraged. I give it another go, trying to muddle through and organize the futzy dense block that is my lower back and pelvis. Serendipitously, I find the magic pain relief button in my heels – the more I press into them, the less it hurts. And so I press into them as much as my energies allow.
Empowered, I decide to continue the exploration of the lower back by hanging back on my own, with a fervent hope that I’ll be left on my own, just this once. I place my hands on the back of my hips and get everything in place. It is a little bit like setting up for a photo shoot – finding what I need for the moment and setting up…it takes a while to engage the abdomen just enough, to tip the tail bone just enough and lift the ribs just enough that will help me to hang back. Once it’s all set up, the first one happens without the sharp compressed pain I’m used to, and it’s enough to lift my spirits. David, who’s watching on the sidelines, tells me to push into my hands, instead of pushing the hips forward. I do that, as he spots, and the arch happens with control but no pain, as I lean backwards into the tipping point and start bending my knees. At the end of it, he says that I just needed to bend my knees a little bit more and I could have dropped back. That’s a project for another day, I say, as he laughs.
With that day’s biggest fear behind me, I feel a lightness of spirit in the closing sequence. My former demon, the headstand, is slowly becoming more of an acquaintance, and each practice helps deepen the friendship just a little bit. A restful Savasana, and then a clear mind for the rest of the day.
And then I’ll do it all again tomorrow. Same fears, different arc, different body.