Uddiyana Bandha versus Transversus Abdominis: Smackdown

Thanks to Vanessa for mentioning bandhas this morning in her entry. I needed a reminder. Been waking up to a stiff lower back each morning, and I know the fix: uddiyana bandha. Okay, so in a somewhat unusual twist, I started thinking about the bandhas in a less vata/energetic/poetic/spacey/make-The-Cop-roll-his-eyes sort of way, and thought again about the mechanism that protects the lower back in both yoga poses and weightlifting attempts: which means I thought about the core, and more specifically, the transversus abdominis.

Part of me feels like it is highly unlikely that this is the key to uddiyana bandha, because it seems so, well… obvious, and grossly physical. Another part of me (the pragmatist) figures this may be the whole molehill out of which we make mountains. Regardless. I kept the transversus abdominis working throughout practice, and damned if my lower back didn’t feel just great.

Sanskrit Scholar helped me out at kapotasana, first asking if I wanted her to concentrate more on my lower back/legs or my upper back/shoulders. I opted for back/legs: I wanted to keep the focus on the transversus abdominis (from here on called, correctly or not, uddiyana bandha, because it’s easier to spell than, well, you know). With the UB cranked up, the backbends feel much less stressful on the lumbar region. I have the perception that the backbend isn’t as deep, but I’m not actually sure that that’s true. If it is, those are some millimeters I can do without, since I’m pretty sure they’re ill-gotten and likely to cause much more pain than they’re worth. A little challenge for my ego, though — each and every time. Do I want to collapse into the backbend a little deeper, compromising the sacrum in order to feel a little closer to my self-imposed goal? Oh yoga, you make me face my own weaknesses! Isn’t it bad enough I have to bear witness to the physical ones, now you’re pulling out the emotional/psychological ones? I’m no fool. The spiritual ones are coming up next. It’s a bitter pill, but I’m the one who keeps asking for reality.

Dropbacks were assisted in a new manner: Volleyball Guy sits on the floor facing the bender and just holds above the back of the knees. Very nice! Not sure if that’s easier or harder for him. I always wonder: every so often he’ll move like his back is hurting, and I know it’s ’cause of all the adjustments.

The week of vacation is going along swimmingly. I love not worrying about what time I go to sleep, because I can get up early, practice, and nap whenever I like. I know I’ll go back to the office and no one will understand why I am so happy I went to practice on my vacation, since I do it every day anyhow. To go, though, with no thoughts about projects or assignments or team members or departments or strategies or tactics or dramas or anything. Priceless. I have a very simple, orderly life, so I am amazed to find that subtracting work from the equation makes such a difference to how stuffed up my mind feels. It’s not like there’s much of anything else in there, for goodness’ sake.

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5 Responses

  1. I would surmise that the TA is one aspect of UB – the grossest layer or annamaya kosha, if you will. I suspect that there’s a practical basis to most of the metaphysical stuff, anyway. kind of like how the chakras like up with the nerves plexes.

  2. Yes! I am happy you are working this way.

    It is interesting how much of your body-awareness and good anatomical instincts come from weightlifting—a practice I have never learned and stereotype very much. Many students—singers, dancers, martial artists—seem to work from the viscera, albeit with varying language. It IS magic, but maybe not metaphysical unless as a doorway into the subtle body. (Image: the yoga folding into herself at the navel and poof! disappearing—just like one of those stuffed animals that zip outside-in into a little bag.)

    I was thinking about your current transformation and wanted to offer something for the thoracic-days. Get intimate Parsva Dhanurasana. You know the principles and options, but sometimes make it all about the black hole between the scapulae. On the side, there’s this possibility of massaging the back of the ribs and heart with those vestigial remains of reptile-armor, letting the ground be responsible for rotating the bottom shoulder. Like all dynamic postures, parsva was difficult for me to find, but she and I have been getting really specific and personal as my back continues to recover (my lumbar is currently at maybe 60% of its pre-April mobility—so it’s all about the thoracic these days).

  3. hi there!
    interesting, i never focus on UB during backbending, and very much on MB. reasons are that 1. i learned that in teacher training from a long time student of bks iyengar who then turned to ashtanga in his 50’s; 2. i can’t really feel UB when i am stretched backwards; oh and 3. my teacher training teacher said it protects the lower back in that it provides support.

    i rarely have lower back pain unless i have been adjusted in an unusually strong way in a very deep backbend.

    i guess UB and MB work together.

  4. Okay, I’ll admit right up front that parsva dhanurasana, for me, has mostly been about having a breather and kind of thinking, “What the hell is this supposed to be *about*?” I’ll go for the black hole, though — ’cause I know it’s there. Funny, too, to think of the “go to the light” exhortation everyone is familiar with, only to counter it with “go to the black hole!” I guess we really will turn ourselves inside out.

    Weightlifting: I had a love affair with it for more than two decades. The day I gave up my Gold’s membership was the day I knew I’d be practicing Ashtanga for a long, long time. None of this is to suggest I didn’t see the cheesy side of the subculture. But for sheer discipline, trying scary things (“Think you can squat one and a half times your body weight?” “Uh… maybe?”), and learning equanimity through repetition, it rocks. Good intro to Ashtanga. The body mechanics lesson was a good one for me: I was never naturally athletic. My brother was my teacher. He stuck to old school methodology: free weights, Olympic lifts — none of this machine work-out stuff. No spending endless amounts of time on limbs at the expense of core. Progressive stress to the physical body to increase strength, and to the nervous system to teach it to vibrate at a higher level. Interesting stuff. Not many people have personal trainers with a background in Sufism, so I consider myself very, very lucky.

    Re: MB. I think you’re right on, Julie — they definitely work together. Unfortunately, I tend to have trouble doing physical multitasking — next practice, though, I’m going for stronger consciousness of both.

  5. for sure! PD is deceptively complex! it totally kicked my butt in the initial days of learning it, and still, it is a great pose to really feel the whole front body as well as shoulders opening up. i have heard a lot of people say they flop to the side and they are like, “hmmm, now what?” which i always thought was funny because like i said, it always kicks my butt! like 0v0 says, you can use the floor to self-adjust. it’s great!
    your weightlifting experience sounds really interesting. i never knew anyone who did weight lifting as a serious discipline; only people who do a bit of weights in the gym as their overall workout. sounds cool!

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