And I apologize.
After so many repeated times of writing about how I’m not going to dwell on specifics of my practice, I will. Briefly. As briefly as possible.
My back-to-basics approach definitely has me feeling and thinking like the beginner I am, or ought to be. As I move through week two, and a few fundamentals continue to guide me, I realize there are some specific adjustments happening in the poses I’m doing that, perhaps, might make the practice more welcoming to stiff, resistant would-be (but probably claim to be “never-be”) Ashtangis.
I was one of those, for many years.
That said, I still think we may be too eager to find a “one size fits all” way to describing asanas. Like clothing, these work fine, I suspect. But always something transcendent might be missed, much as a bespoke suit transcends one pulled off the rack at Nordstrom. I do realize it is somewhat unrealistic to expect everyone to get their very own version of an asana practice such as, say, the Ashtanga sequence. One can be idealistic, right?
But first, I would direct anyone to have the stiff and resistant guys (I’m assuming most are men) they know read this post that describes how my move from running and weightlifting to Ashtanga didn’t result in any loss of strength or muscle. That kind of thing is important to them. (Again, I was them, so I remember that.)
Here are the tweaks I’m finding helpful in Surya Namakara A. This is just the list of things I feel I’m adjusting from the typical or that I think a stiff and resistant guy (SRG) might try to cheat on:
- Arms straight on that first breath, a little bit in front of the body (i.e. not directly out in one line but really close). This seems to be helping my shoulders and upper back loosen up a bit. And keep the arms straight on the forward fold.
- Keep the legs straight during that forward fold! This is a major ego check. (If you can convince your SRG to keep those legs straight, I bet we have a real yogi in the making.) Rest the hands lightly wherever they fall (knees? shins?) to mimic the light touch on the floor that may, or may never, come.
- Check and see at this point if the knees are hurting. If so, it may be (as in my case) that there is too much weight on the outside of the feet / too much outward rotation going on. Press through the big toe and try to get the inner things to rotate inward. (We’ll get back to that move later, and it is one that reoccurs or needs to reoccur frequently.)
- On the inhale, make sure the back is straight (if you can be talking to our SRG about bandhas, great!) and extend forward, everything still staying straight.
- I’ve been stepping back during this process. I alternate which leg is first (and step forward with the same one), but that’s a small detail that I think we can ignore. A benefit of stepping back is you can end up at the top of the push-up (in SRG terms) and then feel as though you are getting a little extra strength exercise from this lowering down. Bobbie also has argued it helps with loosening the hamstrings.
- In Down Dog, I’ve got my feet spread as wide as the mat, and no, my heels aren’t down. I try to get my legs straight, which is hard. And then here’s a key thing: Rotate the things internally, i.e. towards each other (though not moving closer). My legs desperately want to externally rotate (as though I were trying to do Kurmasana). Such a bad habit! I’m not worrying much about my arms and shoulders; one detail might be making sure it is the pads of the hands that are really pushing into the floor. Oh! And push into the floor! Even if it hurts a little (or the wrists hurt a bit) and it seems counter-intuitive, this seems to work.
- On the way back to standing, don’t forget all of the above.
So that’s that. Remember, this may only be helpful for me and my body. But perhaps something is transferable to others.
I happily will stop doing these if there is an outcry, believe me. Otherwise, more to come.
Posted by Steve