The ankle bone’s connected to the back bone?

My ongoing Rolfing homework — to pay attention to my feet — turned up a big lesson during my Thursday asana practice.

Back bends are not coming.

Hold on, you’re saying. I’ve been reading you, and I know you’re stiff and back bends are a far off dream.


True. Totally true. But I assumed I knew why back bends weren’t coming: my shoulders.

If you think back to any posts I’ve done regarding back bends — Urdhva Dhanurasana, thank you very much — you will recall a theme: Teachers telling me to straighten my arms.

Straighten your arms. Straighten your arms. If I had a dime for every time I’ve been told to straighten my arms, I’d be able to fund my own line of yoga studios. (Add in times I’ve also been told to straighten my legs, and I could fund my own line of yoga clothing. Nothing black, if you are curious about one design element.)

My arms, of course, aren’t the problem. It’s my shoulders. Too tight. Some resistance is there, as Tim Miller might tell.

Actually, as Tim has told me.

Thursday, though, I’m focusing in on my feet, as our Rolfer Russ Pfeiffer has ordered. All’s going OK. I push up into a few of my versions of Urdhva Dhanurasana, which probably are closer to Setubrokehasana, or Broken Bridge.  (Trademarked, by the way, in the best Bikram tradition.)

And then I move to my sad little wall walkers. And still, not bad. In fact, during wall walkers, I actually tend to think my back’s a bit more flexible than I give it credit for being.

Next up, assisted drop backs. As I wait, I toy around with it. And I picture others I see dropping back and how their knees move forward (toward the top of the mat), cantilevering to an extent. I try that.

My knees do not want to move forward. And I feel why: My ankles are having nothing to do with this movement.

And I’m right back to Sun Salutes, and my inability to get my heels down. There isn’t the flexibility to get my knees and legs forward enough to counter-balance the drop back.

So it isn’t just my shoulders I’m fighting here. (And I use that word very consciously.) My ankles are part of the issue, part of the problem. (Another word I use purposefully.)

So I’ve got that going against me.

(Of course, for instructions on dropping back, see this week’s asana aid.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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