Here’s a backbending trick my teacher showed me this morning

This morning, as I was finishing up backbends — and toying with whether I wanted to do some wall-assisted dropbacks — Jörgen Christiansson caught my attention and said, “Wait.”

So I did. Played with two of those dropbacks, fought back the urge to vomit, stood staring blankly.

The usual stuff.


Then Jörgen came over and asked me to do a handstand. That was a first. I used to do handstands on Tuesdays — a play on flying in honor of Hanuman — but I haven’t in, I’m sure, more than a year.

You probably know why. Handstands supposedly tighten up your shoulders — even as they grant you strength — and that I don’t need.

But up I went, and Jörgen pressed on my chest, straightening me out. Don’t worry about balancing, he added, as I kept kicking my feet off the wall. I definitely felt the chest push in my shoulders, a counter-intuitive stretch.

Then he motioned for me to turn around. “Do another backbend, with your head this side.” In other words, with my feet near the wall, my head away.

But that wasn’t all. Jörgen had me put my feet up on the wall and push up into handstand that way.

It is something I’m experimenting with, he said. (All italics are paraphrases. Why? Because I was doing backbends! I can’t recall exactly what he said.)

We did a couple that way, and it absolutely put a different angle into my shoulders. It basically was the inverse of my wall-assisted drop backs.

As I was leaving, I asked him if I should be doing that all the time. We’ll see, I think he answered. I know he said that loosening up my shoulders — that is the goal — will help relieve pressure on my back.

I’m all for that.

As I reflected on this new addition during a meeting today, I realized that what he’d done was a version of handstands with your feet on blocks. I suppose I’m such a problem case that a more extreme method is required.

It was interesting, no doubt. And the timing was, as well, given the noise in backbend I just made this week.

Progress, maybe?

If you have any similar experiences, feel free to add them. I’m all ears. And all tight shoulders and stiff back, too.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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