Oops I did Again! - How Coming Back to Primary is Deepening Backbends

In a twisted turn of events, ala Grimmly, "my practice has become my guru" and told me to listen to Sharath.  "To move ahead, focus on perfecting what you already have" he said sometime in February.  And so...back to primary I am.

That is not to say I only do the Chikitsa (yoga jargon for primary series) when at the shala with John. No, When with the teacher I follow the teacher. Besides John knows full and well that my lazy bottom enjoys not going much further than primary because these days, don't tell anyone, primary: "feels easy".  I never thought there would come a day when I would say that, but it has come to that, and John -wise teacher that he is- has more than noticed.  So at the shala, i.e. today, I go all the way to Ustrasana.

I like to say "Ustrassana" (yoga jargon for camel pose), it sounds very Sanskrit, scholarly and respectful. "Uus-Tra!-sana".  I even enjoy adding a bit of a German accent when I say it to add more coolness.

Primary alone at home is so manageable these days that by the time I come to the end I have energy for backbends. Energy! Wise Sharath.

All my focus goes into them, and now I am walking the hands in the third try. It hurts like a bad case of constipation. Can one have spine constipation? Little by little however I am able to stay there longer.

These days after I walk the hands on the third try I can only stay there for the last two breaths, but who knows? by the time I get to practice with Sharath again in April I might be able to walk the hands on third try and stay there the full five.

Wow, I just noticed that April is like, next week!


  1. Your blog inspired me to film myself in my headstand and pincha mayurasana (which I finally got up into) so that I can begin to see what my body looks like and where I need to move and make changes. I also filmed myself doing handstand-prep kicks, since I often think that my wrists are going to bend the wrong way and snap and this way I can assure myself they aren't going to.

  2. Laine, that is great news! I hope you let me know if you do, and if you dont mind sharing, I would love to watch your headstand and pincha mayurasana! And as per the wrists, you had me laughing, I get the samesense too, and usually the wrists end up not breaking at all... hee hee

    Will you start a blog?

  3. Very nice, Claudia! The front of your body is so much more open than in your previous backbend videos! You are so close to standing up. I can almost put myself in your body and feel your psoas/quads/whatever-those-front-hip-muscles-are engaging. Does John help you to stand up after the third Urdhva Dhanurasana? If he doesn't, he should (okay, I shouldn't be telling him what to do...); it will really help you to get the muscles needed to come up.

    This is just my very personal and non-expert opinion, but I think you are ready for Laghu Vajrasana. Doing Laghu will really help you to engage those muscles you need to stand up.

    When you said "Spine constipation", do you mean:

    (1) Feeling constipated just like a regular case of constipation, except that it happens immediately after the third backbend?

    Or do you mean:

    (2) Having this "stuck", "compressed" feeling in the lower back muscles?

    If it is (1), hmm... I don't know, maybe you just need to go to the bathroom :-)

    If it is (2), engage the bandhas more. This happens to me in kapotasana too; if you engage the bandhas and create space in the pelvis/SI joint, the "stuck" feeling will eventually go away.

    Thanks for posting this. I love talking about asana :-)

  4. Thank you Nobel, you had me laughing with the thing of taking over and using the psoas or whatever the muscles to come up... I feel it too... It is coming..

    John just helps me drop back, but I see what you mean, perhaps I will suggestbthat, the coming back from the floor type of help. Thanks.

    As per the constipation I was just kidding, I could not think of a word to describe the pain... But your point number 2 (funny, #2) is very good... Especially the create space one as I already engage band has and breath as if for the life of me...

    Thanks for the thing about lag too... Might begging exploring at home and present sketches at the shala... Maybe after Sharath :-)

  5. Nobel,

    OH MY GOD - you MUST be psychic

    Guess what? Today John gave me Lagu!

  6. Claudia,

    I noticed you coming to the top of your head between backbends. I thought this was standard and had never been corrected by any of the certified or authorized teachers I've practiced with--until a couple of weeks ago when I practiced with John and he told me not to do it that way but to come all the way down instead. Is he having you just come to the top of your head? Perhaps I misinterpreted him? Or is it just that this is how you were practicing it in Mysore and thus how you are practicing it at home?

    Also, have you tried staying in the backbends longer? Up to 8 breaths, perhaps? I think this could have been immensely helpful for me throughout learning 2nd Series, but unfortunately I only allowed myself to do this after adding the 7 headstands at the end of the series, after which I was having particular difficulty doing backbends for longer than I'd ever had trouble when adding new asanas to my practice. I think I did 8 breaths in backbends for a few days or a week, then 7 breaths, then 6. After 2 or 3 weeks, I was back to doing 5-breath backbends at my usual depth without struggling so much. I wish I had thought to do this much sooner, but I guess I was almost forced to figure this out (however simple it may sound) because my teacher went away for 2 months shortly after adding those headstands to my practice--not to mention that he was surprised at how much those headstands were affecting my backbending. In any case, you might consider this as an option, particularly at home when practicing only Primary, to see if you get any deeper or closer to feeling that you could actually come up to stand.

  7. Frank, thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience. Actually John never said anything about the way I put the head on the floor to rest in between backbends, and come to think of it, yes that is how I saw everyone doing it in Mysore. I am curious about why John would have said that to you... hmmm, mystery.

    As per breathing longer in the backbends, that is a wonderful idea. One thing you may not know is that only now I am fuly able to stay there for the full five without fluffing about. So, I will keep it in mind... especially before I get to the headstands of the intermeditate (who knew?) which might come sooner than I think as today I just got myself lagu!, even though everything I wrote! I go and get myself a new pose! cool of course!, just a reminder that second is coming!

    So yes, thank you for the suggestion!

  8. I should be more precise: he refined his statment to say to come down "at least to the shoulders"; all the way down was not necessary. Reasoning (to paraphrase highly) was to take the spine/back through a fuller range of motion, rather than stopping short by coming only to the head. It wasn't something just for me, either; it was in a led class, and while he singled me out directly because he saw me doing it, he was clearly speaking to the entire group.

    I did not really know your history with backbends, and my situation was certainly different from yours. Just a suggestion that I think could be helpful, simple to implement, and even within Ashtanga "regulations". Even if it is more difficult at first....

  9. Frank, very interesting... thanks for the clarification. I appreciate the suggestion, I also think that staying there longer will actually help quite a bit! :-)

  10. Great post and backbends, Claudia. And yes, April is right around the corner. Seems like it was just the holidays. I know what you mean about perfecting what you have. I used to feel eager to race ahead (and did) but I also feel like I am being called to turn my attention back to cleaning up a few details I have tended to overlook in Primary, particularly transitions. I have always been so focused on the poses themselves that I never paid much attention to mastering smooth transitions. Kristen

  11. Thank you ABP. that bit about perfecting what we have really sinked in on me, it was a wise statement, it calmed me down and focused me more. I find I am breathing better, and even enjoying the practice better.... Glad to know I am not alone and you have been there too... Good to hear from you Kristen.


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