It’s that time again, the bi-annual status report on my spine! In a few weeks I turn 41 and will have been practicing Ashtanga yoga for two and a half years. Seems like a good time to pause and take stock, yes?
First, a quick retrospective.
Winter 2009 (after six months of practice)
Summer 2010 (one year of practice)
Summer 2011 (two years of practice)
Winter 2012 (today)
Sidebar: Henry, my dog, knows the Primary Series. It has become the routine that I take him for a walk when I finish yoga, so he has a vested interest in the whole thing. When I start Surys, he goes over to the sofa, flops down, and goes to sleep. When I start doing seated, he opens one eye and watches. When I get to the butt-balance poses, he lifts his head. When I get to backbends, he comes and sits beside my mat. For the rest of the practice, he scoots closer and closer until he has sneakily (he thinks) gotten right up on the mat and is staring at me. I have to shoo him off for headstand lest I crash land on his fuzzy self.
Anyway. The backbend, hmm, I don’t know if it looks any better, really, but it feels more comfortable, so that’s something. In the first photo, it looks like one of my hands is forward of the other, not sure if that is the angle of the camera or not, but I’ll watch that. The fact that heels up make it look slightly more balanced over the shoulders makes me think maybe some hip-flexor and psoas stretching might be as helpful (or more?) than the upper back opening I’ve been focused on. Duh.
Well, miniscule changes are better than none. The increased comfort is nothing to sneeze at, although I wouldn’t call this a comfortable pose by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a strain to be up there. What do I need, more shoulder strength? Or will just getting my arms straight up and down put some of the work on the bones and less on the muscles?
If I take a quick peek at a bunch of other ashtanga folk’s back bends….
…then it’s apparent that legs are generally much straighter than mine, as well as the obvious arms going straight up and down, not at an angle. It seems impossible! Well, maybe I’m like Henry, scooting microscopically closer and closer to the goal.
It’s a work in progress.
Back to the sidebar: Henry happily licks my toes during savasana, corpse, the last pose of the series. Actually, the kids call this final resting pose Loveasana, because they come and lay down on me while I do it.
My toes are so CLEAN by the time I get up!