Ground of being, Yoga rodeo, Backbends

From The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi:

In chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra, a rich man, in order to lure his unwary children out of the burning house where they are playing, offers them a beautiful carriage drawn by a white ox, promising to give it to them after they get out of the house. The burning house represents the realm of delusion or ignorance, the carriage with the white ox is the Buddha’s teaching as set forth in the Lotus Sutra, and the “bare ground” is the area outside the house, the realm of enlightenment.

The bare ground. I love it. Different from the opulent imaginings that people have about enlightenment.

Enlightenment, after all, is just awakening. Seeing the dealio. It doesn’t mean you are then forever sucked into nirvana (complete absorption into the undifferentiated ground of being).

So, much as women at Gold’s Gym used to worry (quite unnecessarily) about getting huge muscles from lifting weights three times a week, so we don’t have to worry that we might get enlightened and then have to go live in ethereal realms.

Just the bare ground. That’s all you get.


This morning, I figured I’d pay a bit of attention to see where The Cop’s practice “is.” In other words, I wanted to see where he is struggling.

Off we went, with a silent practice. At the beginning of Prasarita D, there was an exchange.

“Inhale,” I said.
He extended his arms.
“No arm extension,” I said.
“Exhale… head down…”
“I want to know!”
*giggle* (me, not him)

As it turned out, The Cop identified his current sticking point. The lotus leg/bind on Marichyasana B. We took a moment to talk about the closed joint to protect the knee, and how the lotus foot has to flip up more and tuck into the crease but not extend past the hip, etc.

I pulled out Swenson’s manual and the modification is to lotus the leg, then just pull the non-lotus leg in closer to the body. The Cop tried it and felt like it was a good step to take. Up ’til now, he’s been folding his lotus leg under and just taking the bind. Time to start working into the lotus a bit.

And after supta kurmasana, as I did the transition from tittibhasana to bakasana to chaturanga (gingerly! my knee is still killing), he cheered.


I just looked at him.

“I think we should cheer for the hard parts,” he explained.

Yoga rodeo. Today’s Goddamn It! count: 1


Current state of the backbend. I’ll write more tomorrow. There have been some great tips from Bindifry (in a comment on someone else’s blog… I have to track that one down so I can post it. ) and an incredibly inspiring photo on a Flicker site that Vanessa linked to.

Ack! The extension through the arms and chest! So beautiful.


6 Responses

  1. for mari B, I’ve been told to work on stability of base before worrying about bind, so even if leg is in very loose lotus (nearer knee than hip, with foot flexed to protect knee) the key is to be able to sit up straight (core strength) and then work on getting arms forward.

    sorry if that doesn’t make sense, I’m crap at anatomy!


  2. That totally makes sense. And it aligns with what Swenson says in his manual. And actually, it also aligns with what Annie Pace said in her workshop about all poses building from the ground up!

    The binds are a tempting distraction, because they make the pose “look” more like the pose is “supposed” to be.

  3. Maehle, for what it’s worth, has also described Marichyasana D as the main “structural builder” for Supta Kurmasana, so once again, there you have the Marichyasana sequence explained in terms of structure, base, core strength (and actually that’s the only way I’ve ever been able to make sense of why the sequence goes to Navasana and then arm balances from there).

  4. Wow. That is an awesome picture. She has her upper arms turned in so beautifully. Wish I could do that. When Richard Freeman told me to turn my shoulders like downward dog, I just couldn’t visualize that in backbends, but this photo makes it so clear. Oh—backbend envy!

    (Remember the dropping back/wall video when you have time!)

  5. when my students ask me why no arm extension in prasarita D, i say ‘because Guruji says so!’

  6. Hi Karen
    Bindi left some great comments on backbends on mine last week. I actually printed one and have been carrying it around to remind myself. I’ve been practicing it. She said she learned it from Deena.

    But of course that picture is great – it’s Kino MacGreggor!!! If you ever get to go to a workshop with her and Tim Feldman, it will be a special opportunity.


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