Ashtanga folk are known, well, for many things, ahem, but one of those things is their typical disdain for props. For those of you non-yogi types, props are things like blocks, straps, and blankets that yoga practitioners might use to help them get into a pose that they can’t quite manage yet, such as placing blocks on the floor to lean on in trikonasana (triangle pose) if you can’t quite reach.
You can see here that the yogi is leaning on a blue yoga block. The dog is optional for this pose.
Iyengar, one of Krishnamacharya’s famous students, is known for his liberal use of props and his meticulous attention to alignment—props help maintain alignment when one’s flexibility or strength is not up to the task. Jois, another of Krishnamacharya’s famous students, and the founder of Ashtanga yoga, valued breath linked with movement over alignment (not that alignment is unimportant, just that it is rated lower on the list). With all that breathing and movement, props tend to get in the way, so ashtangi’s tend to just modify as best they can and move on. “Practice and all in coming” and all that.
Lately I’ve been using a couple of blocks to enable my dodgy jumpbacks, since I can’t lift my bottom off the floor high enough to get my body through my arms—blocks give me a couple more inches to work with and apparently my bum can use a couple more inches. Don’t say anything.
But back in my twenties I did some Iyengar training and used lots of props, blankets, bolsters, straps, the works. As part of that time I got, for fun, I got one of these:
Look, ma, no hands!
Okay, not one of those exactly, but I just searched the internet and it would seem that the actual thing that I do have no longer exists, or, at least, isn’t on the net, which as we all know, is the same thing. But the prop-doo-dad I have has that same sling thingy bit and it attached to the wall or the ceiling, and it also has this padded bar thing and some straps with hooks and caribeeners and shit I can’t even identify. It’s all black, and has furry bits, and totally looks like some kind of crazy sex toy. I think this is the product that has taken its place in the market:
Anyway. Fast forward and I had two babies (no connection to the hanging sex trapeze yoga sling) and we moved from the old farm house we lived in for years pre-baby, and into the yurt, which is half the farm house’s square footage, and, as a result, we got rid of a shit ton of stuff, and put another shit ton of it into storage. The storage stuff went into this structure Paul threw up using a 20 x 20 carport roof he inherited from his mom’s old place, enclosed with a bunch of doors he got at the used building supply store for $10 a pop. Into this fun-house structure went boxes, tools, furniture, and all manner of weird stuff and then, of course, because of babies and life and just everything, we forgot most of what was down there. We started calling it the Mold Pit, because hey, we live in North Carolina and the drainage isn’t great on that part of the property, yuck, but honestly, it kind of got abandoned. One day we’ll have to address it but for now it sits over there like a scary haunted junkyard full of mold and taken over with honeysuckle and spiders and who know what else? Probably zombies.
Still, sometimes we remember items from our previous life, and wonder if we could ever dig said items out. Then we move on because we know that will never happen.
Back to the yoga sling. I’ve been thinking about it lately because it seems like a little helping hand for doing hang-backs would be just the thing to help me with the emotional freak outs I tend to get when trying them on my own.
But the yoga sling thing is one of the items lost to the Mold Pit.
What to do?
Well, it turns out we’re going camping next week-end and so we needed the tent. (Because apparently I’m not allowed to bring my mattress and comforter and pillows and sleep hat and why they HELL did I agree to do this?) Needing the tent meant that Paul had to don a haz mat suit and enter the Mold Pit, regardless of the danger, and find said tent, or else no camping and then the kids would mutiny and go all Lord of the Flies on our middle aged butts and dance around the yurt with our heads on sticks. Or something like that. Camping has been promised and so camping will be delivered, so help us.
So Paul did it, he went down there by golly, with his machete and his night vision goggles, because he’s brave, and strong, and not allergic and prone to profound and nearly fatal sneezing fits whenever he gets near the Mold Pit like, er, some people. What can I say, I’m a delicate flower.
But, when he set off, I told him I’d give him a bonus if he could find the yoga sling thingy. (He waggled his eyebrows and said, “what kind of bonus?”)
And look, he did, he found it!
what the hell is this all this shit? did it really have all these parts?…are those hand cuffs?
On the left you see the pollen crusted bag, and on the right a snarl of black straps and bizarre looking loops and bands and whatnot. It all seems rather improbable now that I see it again. I do remember hanging upside down from it on a regular basis. That part was fun. But how…?
Back to the drop-backs. In Ashtanga, usually you go to classes where the teacher holds you while you hang back, and eventually drop back (when your hands touch the floor) and, in theory, you eventually do this on your own. It looks something like this:
i reckon you have to trust the teacher quite a bit to believe s/he won’t drop you on your head, eh?
this one is not a support in dropping back but for chakrasana where you grab your own feet (holy shit)
For some reason when I googled for pics of assisted drop backs, all the images were of this guy, David Robson, an ashtanga teacher who has a hugely successful (so I hear) Mysore program in Toronto. He also has those big earlobe things, I don’t know what they’re called, plus super amazingly floaty jumpbacks, plus large tattoos. A while back I downloaded his video on floating in one’s vinyasa and spent a lot of the time trying to make out what his giant back tattoo says (maybe it is “mercy”?). (I remain convinced that it is the earlobe thingies that give him the power to do vinyasa as if he is in zero G. They constrict some gravity meridian or something, you know it’s true.) It’s a pretty good video although it did not magically confir upon me the ability to float. It did make me feel guilty for fidgeting during surys.
Anyway. As a home practitioner, I have no cute teacher to hold me safely in his muscled and tattooed arms while I have emotional meltdowns while hanging back Sigh. So I have to DIY and maybe this old sling thing will have to do the job. I think it can work. I will hang back and not fall on my head and soon I will be omnipotent.
Here is where I wanted to put a picture of the sling thing in use, that is, me hanging back held securely in its furry black clutches, but Paul hasn’t installed it yet. Sophie said, “you could install it, you could use a drill,” and because I want her to feel empowered as a girl I said, “of course I could,” but really I thought, no fucking way, that’s your Dad’s territory. But never mind the gender issues of power drill usage, because the problem, really, is where can we hang it? We live in a yurt, the ceilings are 16 feet tall, this is a problem. But I am determined. There has got to be a way. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you if it works.
In the meantime, ponder this….
This pose will be mind. Oh yes, it will be mine.