There are a lot of positions we can will ourselves into. We can pull harder in stretching postures, we can dig a little deeper in strength postures. But as I get deeper into the pursuit of yoga, I find that many elements are about patience, perseverance, humility and surrender. A few of these elements are balance, backbending and pranayama (breath, energy and the nervous system). Today I am thinking about Backbending.
Backbending can not be forced. It is incredibly difficult to push ourselves deeper into backward bends as it usually results in shortness of breath, panic and lightheadedness. We must relax and surrender into backward bends like Camel, Bow and Half Moon.
When we Backbend, the front side of the body is stretched. We don't have a lot of big muscle groups on the front side, only the abdominals (which should be relaxed as much as possible when Backbending). Mostly we have complex nerve centers at our solar plexus, chest and throat along with connective tissues. When stretched, these elements are tough and intense, far more resistant than the muscles on the backside like the hamstrings or erectors.
When we stretch the nerve centers of the front side by backbending, we experience panic and distress. I continue to be lightheaded often when practicing backbends. A couple years ago I even blacked out in Camel pose. To get through this physical and psychological distress, we need to enter backbends slowly, letting the panic arise bit by bit, calming ourselves with breath and concentration, then deepening slightly and repeating the process.
In this way we can gradually deepen our backbends. And by refining our ability to sense our own distress and calm it, our entire yoga practice and life benefits. We become more aware, more controlled, and more relaxed.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga