Well, son of a gun!

A couple of posts ago, Vanessa left me a comment reminding me to engage the front of my body in backbends. She said Hamish had told her that many times and that it took her a while to “get it.” I certainly understand that, because I can be remarkably obtuse about obvious things. But son of a gun, for some reason I remembered what she’d said when I went to practice, and wow, what a difference!

I had, of course, heard the “engage the front of your body” advice. But I always tended to engage my abs only, and then push up through my hips. All of that is well and good, but this time around I engaged my whole core, and that made all the difference in the world. Seriously, it feels rather revolutionary. The first couple of times I did this, I had a heck of a time even understanding what it was I was doing. It is definitely reminiscent of the way you stabilize your core when you do heavy squats, a kind of pulling in of the muscles, balanced by a pushing out. I’m pretty sure it creates some intra-abdominal pressure, but I’m not savvy enough about anatomy to really explain it.

And the other detail is this: instead of just contracting my front abs, I am engaging the muscles all the way around my body. It kind of makes a muscular girdle around the lower back. I imagined that’d make the bending stiffer and more resistant, but it actually doesn’t. All it does is make the “edge” of the backbend recede by about 90%.

Very exciting, and I’m sure I’m overthinking and being awkward since it’s new, but I imagine this engagement will refine itself with some time and practice. And in the meantime, backbends feel rather thrilling. Oh, and one other thing: this engaging the front of the body business is a lot easier going down (e.g., dropbacks, ustrasana) than going up (e.g., dhanurasana, urdhva dhanurasana). If I can stabilize the core and then go backwards, it’s a lot easier to understand than trying to come up from the floor with the engaged core. I imagine that’ll clear up in time, too.

I’ve been wanting to blog about this for a couple of days. It’s the most exciting thing to happen in practice in a good while, but work has been a hellfest, so there’s just not been a moment to sit and write. The thing that’s interesting about work is that the hellishness is not because I don’t like the people I work with or for, and it’s not because I don’t like what I do. It’s just so freaking busy. All of the wigged-out-ness is something I make inside myself, and I guess that’s why it really starts to bother me. If only I could be better about putting it all down.

Over the past few days, two colleagues have asked me about yoga. One said that her stepmom, who is a practitioner, said that yoga is about balance. Both physical and mental. I agreed and told her that it was also about the breath — about being with the breath and using that to recalibrate continuously, both physically and mentally. She said something about how lovely that must be. We were both at work, late, talking about work stuff — and I had to laugh and say, “Yeah, well, this work stuff always reminds me I have more practicing to do!”

So that’s my problem with work. It messes with my perfectly calm sensibilities. Aside from that, it’s just fine. I say that half-jokingly, but I really am determined to find a way to balance this out — to be less affected, less attached, less inclined to go all vata. Yup. That and kapotasana some day.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your insights re dhanurasana. I’m struggeling with this pose. I will test using the core muscles. Sounds helpful.

  2. Wonderful; we share vicariously in your breakthrough πŸ™‚

  3. Kapotasana someday, when grabbing the ankles will feel as delightful as engaging the core! πŸ™‚

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