I’ve struggled with deep backbends like full pidgeon pose for some time in my yoga practice. I can do a lot of variations of backbends, but the deeper ones tend to make me feel like I need to crawl out of the class on hands and knees and visit a chiropractor afterwards.
This time, in an odd twist of fate, I started the day in reverse. I hobbled in, late, to Patricia’s backbending class on my third day of yoga at Yoga Journal’s Conference at San Francisco, having twisted my ankle the day before and seriously considered just observing, instead of participating.
Instead I opted to test the waters and throw in the towel if it all became too much.
I wandered past Patricia’s assistant (and elephant contributor) Cora Wen and then past elephant’s favorite contributor Kathryn Budig and plopped my mat somewhere in the back of the considerably full room. (A room full of elephants indeed!)
Strangely, over the course of the class I found that my ankle felt better and better, even as I worked into deeper and deeper backbends. No back pain, no ankle pain, just thrilling heart opening (and a fair amount of fatigue).
Patricia’s manner is very kind and open, her approach direct, and before I knew it, I had my hands on the floor, for the first time, in kapotasana (even better, Kathryn later shared with me that she got her hands onto her heels for the first time herself).
In looking back at what made this class different than so many other backbending classes I’ve attended, I came to a few conclusions:
Patricia’s approach was work smarter, not harder. She shared with us the importance of finding the sthira and sukha of the practice, or the effort and the ease.
Yoga should be like a great yawn, she said, recalling the words of yoga luminary Vanda Scaravelli.
The practice was straightforward, like teaching a friend instead of throwing your body around for two hours to get a workout. Yet I worked very hard indeed.
I felt for the first time, an extra micro-lift in the hips; I could feel what she was telling us to do, even though the instructions could seem abstract or minute at times.
It’s not about working harder, or going deeper, as much as it is about prana-cizing, in Patricia’s words, the area of focus (can I tell you how much I love that word?! I’ll be using it again for sure).
The greatest thing I’ve taken from her class, and this conference, is the idea that my yoga practice should make me feel energized, not depleted.
After class, I walked out, back and ankle feeling ten times better. Yes, yoga is about prana-cizing. About directing more prana or life-force to your body. No wonder I felt great, I was full of life.
For more information on Patricia Walden, please visit: http://www.yoga.com/www/PatriciaWalden/
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