Hands down? Lift up? What’s that mean?
Maybe a milestone today in practice.
Are we even allowed “milestones”? It is hard not to judge things that way given how the “mala” of the practice is strung before us, and a pose may lie just out of reach for weeks, months or years.
If you’re an old hand at Ashtanga, you know the milestone isn’t a new pose. It’s Tuesday, after all, and Guruji — and those who walk in his footsteps — never give new poses on this inauspicious day. (Jai Hanuman, for a bit of protection.)
It was, instead, an extension of a pose. Or a hint of an extension.
Jörgen Christiansson got started adjusted right about as I was at Navasana. I was running a bit late, so everything that followed is entirely my fault.
As I settled into Kurmasana, my breaths came and went, and the part of my mind that wasn’t well focused — also known more simple as “my mind” — began to think I was going to get through the pose without any assistance.
Not today. Jörgen was there, lifting my legs higher, straightening them before me, bringing my arms under more. And pushing my torso down and forward, deeper, ever deeper. (This, of course, means he’s effectively sitting on me.)
From there, well, you know the drill. Arms back, legs crossed. Admittedly, I’m having to cheat with just the slightest bit of a strap — I doubt my fingers are more than two inches apart at this point as I get ever closer to a full bind — but Jörgen’s lifted up my legs, crossed them, and then my head and shoulders are firmly pressed down again.
And then the confusing moment. “Hands down,” he says. “Lift up.”
Hands what? Lift where? I’ve got no clue, I’m in uncharted asana waters.
Jörgen at this point offers directions that I simply don’t understand. My brain isn’t processing properly.
But, somehow, my arms bend, my hands are near the floor, but… up? Up? I don’t think so. I’m not even sure what the mechanism is for that.
And this brings me back to thoughts of surrender. In that moment, Jörgen encourages something, after I’ve already given into the adjustment, and I try. I try.
What causes that reaction? Why not the more logical answer, which is either “What?” or “No way.” Why did I go with “Oh, I’ve got to get my hands on the ground. OK.” Why is that the reaction a lot of us have in the similar situations: Kapotasana, Marichyasana D, any or all of those balance poses later in Second Series.
Is it a brief moment of yoga, union, with the teacher, who can and has and does do what he or she is suggesting?
Is that the power of surrender? And the danger?
Update: I can’t quite work myself up to do a full post on this, but it sounds like the yogis took down the author of the “yoga can hurt you” book and article. Here’s a link to coverage, featuring David Swenson.
Posted by Steve