I got a little frustrated earlier in the year with the lack of any apparent change in the comfort of my backbend. As I’ve said before, backbends freak me out. It’s kind of absurd, it’s just a body position. But I get scared and panicked and emotional, both when trying to hang back and when doing a full Urdhva Dhanurasana. Actually, I understand this is fairly common. I have to psyche myself up for it. “I can do it!” I say to the yurt. And Sophie calls back, “Go Mom!”
Needless to say, I can’t stay in UD for very long. Which I figure is probably a big part of why they aren’t getting any better. Master backbenders like Heather Morton (see freak out post above) say long stays are the key to backbending. To me that’s like saying, just hold your hand in the fire longer! Which is probably why I was not able to keep up the use of her video for long. Yeah, right, I’ll just hang around in my agonizing fear for fun, every day. I tried, but I started to dread my practice, which meant I started skipping. A lot. So I gave it up. I’m just not the kind of girl who can go all hard core and suffer for the greater good. Spell it with me: i-am-a-p-a-n-s-y-a-s-s.
So, here we are, two years later, and I’m still struggling with backbends. I was thinking about that “long stays” business, though, which led me to try to think up ways to accomplish such with less panic and more comfort. Which led me to thinking of props. This prop, to be specific.
It’s a folding chair (available here) that a smart person made that detachable arch thingy for, to make doing Iyengar-style supported backbends on a folding chair more comfy. I got this chair maybe fifteen years ago when I was doing some Iyengar yoga back in my twenties and it has been in storage for the last decade in our
mold pit covered garage, ever since we moved into the yurt. But I dug it out and cleaned the mold off and have been using it lately in the evening for ten minute backbends.
That’s right, ten minute backbends.
Basically the attached arch keeps my giant, heavy head from hanging loose, sort of supports it from behind a bit, which radically diminishes my panic. Huzzah! Here I am on the chair.
Easy, even pleasurable. Perhaps the panic comes from my neck being too far back or something, and the arch-thingy is helping it not do that? Because look, below I am doing the same thing on the chair without the arch-thingy attached…
…and it is almost exactly the same backbend but I could only stand it for a few breaths. Panic came on almost immediately.
Maybe if/when my upper back opens a bit more, I’ll have more bend in the thoracic and thus less extension in the neck? So that my head would hang up and down more, instead of hyper-extending back? Just a guess. Perhaps even this slight increase in extension reduces (or threatens to reduce?) my airflow in some way, making me panic? Like waterboarding for yogis? I don’t know. I just know that without the support, I panic. With it, I’m fine.
So yeah, I can do ten minutes a night (most nights, sometimes I forget) on this chair. I have been for the last two months give or take. No panic. And it has definitely gotten more comfortable as I had to inch my way off the chair and into emergency paschimottanasana at first (muscle spasms), while now I pretty much just sit up and feel fine (I still do paschi though because it feels awesome.)
Any improvement in UD? Let’s see.
Here I am three-ish months ago….
And here I am this morning.
Hmm. Not so much different visually. But this morning I stayed up long enough to talk to Sophie (who was taking the picture) while she fiddled with the camera, vs. the pic three months ago she had to grab the shot the instant I got up there. So I guess I’m staying up longer with more comfort (although I would not say it is comfortable, yet, not at all). In addition, I can push in my legs a bit now, getting my head more between my hands rather than behind them—while before there was simply no room for any give, any pushing. The position itself was already at my body’s maximum. So that’s something!
The limit of the chair, of course, is that if you want a greater arch, you can’t have it. I’ve been wishing I could crank it down a notch for a bit more arch. It would be cool if there were a couple of attachments with greater/lesser levels of arch.
Still, I want to try the chair for another three months and see where it goes. I want to get my head between my hands and my legs a bit straighter—that push I was talking about. Before the chair, I would have thought this was impossible, as nothing had changed in a year. Now, with the chair, I’m thinking maybe.