Feeling the pain
I never thought that I’d be able to come up to standing without having gone to Mysore – a strange notion I know, but I just sort of always assumed it was something that I’d do there. I’m planning my first trip at the end of this year which I’m very excited about!
Coming up to standing has been a long journey of over 5 years of early morning Mysore practice for me. I’m a 6ft man who is not naturally flexible or gifted when it comes to asana practice. I’ve also struggled with back pain during and after practice for years. It’s taken me a long time to work out how to use my upward dog so that I don’t feel a pinching sensation every time I do a vinyasa. A lot of this has to do with my shoulders, hip flexors and the curve of my spine. I’m certainly not out of the woods either. I still normally have back ache after practice every day. I know – I should just give up and do something else right? Well, that’s what my Dad says anyway.
In order to come back up to standing on your own you need to be able to drop back on your own first. Here are a couple of blog posts about my journey towards dropping back (seems like a lot of drama when I reread them!) The post Back again is all about the fear of dropping back and was written 9 months before I actually managed it successfully on my own. I did it! I dropped back written in August 2010 is very aptly titled and doesn’t need any further description.
20 months after first dropping back I managed to come back up to standing. That’s all with daily Morning Mysore practice. I seriously doubt I’d have been able to do it without daily practice – ever. It seems like a long time and the road has been anything but straight forward in terms of my practice. In this time I’ve suffered the worst back pain ever (yeah I know – stop doing it!) and at one point I was reduced to just being able to do 1 sun salutation and having to build my practice up one posture at a time – after 5 days I was doing the standing sequence again. During this time my faith was tested to the point where I seriously considered giving up and even discussed quitting with my teacher.
In January 2012 I began dropping back on my own again after spending many months building up my strength and stamina with consistent daily practice and really working on my Urdhva Dhanurasana, making sure I was in no pain when doing my back bends. The big day was on Wed April 4th that I came up to standing after my 3rd drop back for the first time. On the second drop back I surprised myself by pushing up and leaving the floor – then came crashing down – I was so surprised. Something felt different – up until that point I’d been dropping back and then pushing with all my might but not being able to get my hands off the floor no matter how hard I tried. So on the final one I really went for it and came up with a little step back. Not pretty but I was up! Hannah and Nicky who were practicing next to me both witnessed it and gave me a little cheer. My legs were shaking with adrenalin and I felt breathless with excitement!
I suspect that there’s been an opening in the front of my body – my chest, shoulders and or hips which has meant that my hands are slightly closer to my feet when I drop back but it’s not something that I was aware of.
Show me that again
The next day I was wondering if I’d be able to do it again – and I did 3 times in a row. I’ve heard it said that if you can do a posture 3 days consecutively then you’ve nailed it. The moon day fell on a Friday so we had two days off before I got a chance to try it again.
I managed to come up first attempt and twice more in a row on Sunday which was really good – especially after 2 days off.
I’ve been able to do it each day since – sometimes crashing down on the first attempt but then getting it, sometimes staggering back but still doing it.
I’m working towards keeping my heels flat (a few more years for me – I think on that one!), not taking a step back, and then finally dropping back and coming up with the correct vinyasa count: exhale – drop back, inhale – come up, exhale -drop back, inhale – come up etc… without any extra breaths in between. So lots still to work on there!
I have to say it’s an awesome feeling coming up from drop backs and I also feel like I now have a complete primary series. Of course still lots of opening and improvement/refinement to come but it feels like I have all the bits of the puzzle in place now. I’ve actually been really surprised by the whole experience – trying to drop back was such a drama and I was sort of expecting the same thing with coming up – but it’s all happened so suddenly.
If you’re working on this yourself or if dropping back seems impossible – just don’t give up. One day you’ll surprise yourself too!