The only preparation for backbends is…

Yesterday, as Steve noted, we went to a workshop at the old Center for Yoga (now YogaWorks) run by our friend, Maria Zavala. Maria called her class, “Urdvha Dhanurasana Vinyasa Flow,” although she was careful to give credit for its first incarnation to Tim Miller.

Asked to do a class for a photo shoot–so long ago Maria couldn’t remember the exact year–Tim came up with a sequence that, according to Maria, had some fairly seasoned people huffing and puffing. It was something like this: after the first suryanamaskaras, asana, vinyasa, jump through, lie down, urdva dhanurasana for five breaths, stand up, vinyasa to the next pose, repeat.

That’s right: For every vinyasa, an urdva dhanurasana.

Wheels within wheels: a chambered nautilus.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

Maria, of course, adapted this so it was more appropriate for a YogaWorks class, and to suit her students. Some, like myself and Steve, can’t stand up from backbend, so we rolled forward and stood up for another vinyasa. Later in the class, we used the wall to stand up. But doing so many backbends, you lose count, is an amazing thing.

Amazing on a number of levels. I’m full of admiration for Tim, who is numbered among those of us who are Stiff of Back. “Avoidance is not the answer” is something you’ll often hear him say, and clearly he applies that to himself. Maria quoted something Tim is also fond of saying: “The only preparation for backbends is…backbends.”

And for me, the timing is perfect. I’m practicing regularly at home. I’m just learning what a pain-free back can do. Backbends have always been an antagonist. I never thought doing more of them would turn out to be a good thing, or even a useful thing. So, adding even more than the usual at the end?

Maria didn’t shy away from backbends as the asana between backbends. Shalabhasana A and B? Yes. Then a backbend. Dhanurasana? Yes, with some urdva dhanurasana on top. Ushtrasanalaghuvajrasana…kapotasana? With extra backbends, please. It was awesome.

“You’ll be sore tomorrow,” she told us, “but you’ll feel amazing.”

Are we? Shockingly, no. We did giggle like school kids all the way home, for no apparent reason. We’ve done a little griping about our hips, but no biggie. I’m writing this sitting on the beach, and Steve’s paddled out to surf. We both feel great, in fact.

Maybe it was because Maria closed with some nice twists.

Posted by Bobbie


Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “The only preparation for backbends is…”

  1. Yummy! I’ve heard my teacher say (and this may be a comment that originated with Tim, I’m not sure) that “backbends are like pancakes: the more you do, the better they get, because the first one is usually kind of messy!”

    I may try this in my practice this morning, now! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s