First he broke me backward, then he broke me forward

As I was escaping leaving our shala yesterday, Jörgen Christiansson called out to me: “Tomorrow, drop backs.”

I should have known then that today would have been a good morning to skip. But I didn’t.

It was one of those mornings when I was at the shala first — thankfully with Bobbie’s teacher key in hand — and finished the Surya As and Bs before anyone else arrived.

There’s no getting around it, for me anyway: My focus is far superior when I’m alone. Fancy that? I’m less distracted when there are no distractions.

Jörgen adjusting in backbend, image via LA Yoga.

It wasn’t until Supta Kurmasana that Jörgen turned his focus on me. It was among the deepest adjustments I’ve had in that pose — I think there was one I sort of recall that was deeper — but at a certain point, if the hands on me are strong enough, my brain stops functioning fully, so I can’t say for certain.

I have to backtrack a day — to Sunday’s practice — to highlight this phenomena. After I was just finished with Badha Konasana, Jörgen appeared. And so I got a double whammy of sorts as he adjusted me. At whatever point we were, it was intense enough that I completely let go of my feet and was putting my hands out in front of me. Jörgen had to remind me to grab my feet.

Had to remind me! That’s like Ashtanga 101, “open your feet like a book” in that pose. But I think I had moved into flight or fight mode.

I was back in that mode during backbends today, but I can now report that you can’t really fly nor fight from backbend. Consider yourself warned.

It all involved two pretty basic adjustments; the old “hold my ankles” one, which actually wasn’t too bad, and then, as I was pressing myself up, the one where the teacher moves your lower back in whichever direction it is supposed to be heading (forward? backward? I’m upside down at that point, I don’t know).

That was painful; painful in a good way, yes, but still…

It is the kind of moment when I really wonder, briefly, what drives me — and everyone else who seems to really be in some pain or at the edge of some cliff — to keep practicing. Guilt? Is yoga a hairshirt? Are we trying to atone for sins? Is it as simple as Tapasya?

Why in the world do we do this to ourselves?

But even as I perhaps was formulating that question, the worst part hit: the post-backbend forward fold adjustment.

“Hold on,” you’re saying. “You started this post off by talking about drop backs.”

Don’t worry. We did … six? Seven? I have no idea; I was out of it. The only thing I remember thinking was: If I can bend back far enough and he drops me, I bet I’ll get a month at the shala for free.

No such luck.

The forward fold adjustment after the drop backs was three-fold: The one you are probably familiar with, when you are pressed so your back will loosen. And then there was adjustment version No. 2: he tried to straighten my legs more, and my upper body popped right up (at which point I laughed). It was like I was on a spring.

But that wasn’t about to stop Jörgen. He pressed on and then went to version No. 3, grabbing my feet, telling me to keep my legs straight, and he kept on pressing.

I’m still wobbly, three hours later.

But how else will things loosen up, right?

Posted by Steve



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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

5 thoughts on “First he broke me backward, then he broke me forward”

  1. I literally laughed out loud reading this. I’m not sure other yogic traditions talk about “painful in a good way.” It’s true, we all must be crazy! Perhaps this is just a new incarnation of my guilt-ridden Catholic upbringing? 😉

  2. Haha… you know when I got dropped straight on my head during drop backs, I got up thinking I am sure to get pampered now, but nope! it was just plainly ” Lets do it again” haha . There is no free month or cookies 😦
    But maybe a cookie jar in the shala will be a good idea 🙂

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