Thursday, 17 February 2011

Dropbacks and Doublethink

When I was walking around London this morning visiting shops (or trying to, I should say) I realised that I am guilty of so much doublethink. I spend half the time thinking I have the greatest job in the world; the freedom it gives me is incredible, I get to travel around and see different places all of the time and meet new people and I can pretty much write my own success story. On the other days it seems relentless and impossible. I can’t get appointments, nobody wants to see me, they reduce their orders rather than increasing them, everything’s a problem. Whilst travelling around and seeing different places I also find myself imagining living all kinds of different lives, whilst being incredibly contended with my own. I picture myself being happy with no money, whilst wishing I had more money to do all of the things I want to do. I long to live in a huge house in West London; I fall ever more in love with East London (where I actually live – not in a huge house!). I feel like this life I’m living, where no two days are the same, could just be the perfect lifestyle for someone like me who is fascinating with things around them. I’m getting to know London in a completely different way, I’m getting to really appreciate it, but I’m also getting out of London (and dare I say, becoming confident with driving!). My new favourite time of day is the hour before sunset, when the light is just *perfect* and everything I see is awash with beauty. And then I have days where nothing makes me happier than imagining resigning. I think I can sum up my current state of mind as unsettled with moments of unbelievable happiness. I think I need a holiday!

As for my practice, there’s a bit of doublethink going on there too. Though I absolutely swore I wasn’t going to become fixated with dropbacks, what do you think might have happened? Oh yes of course, I am utterly fixated.  I have been working on dropping back now for almost exactly two months, though with over a week off at Christmas and another week off in January when I was staying away for work it’s not been an entirely consistent two months. What’s so interesting is how things change. I’ve written already about the different phases and levels that Cary has had me working at. This past week we have moved onto another new method, and with each new approach I have “found” new parts of my back or my body and been able to tap into them or move in a different way. The latest method is in assisted dropbacks; I go halfway back alone, inhale & exhale, then she places her hand between my ribs (pointing upwards – just on top of where the bra line would be if I wore one for practice!!) and (according to her) “grips with her fingertips to pull me forwards”), I inhale again then on the exhale I go back. To all intents and purposes I am “dropping” without assistance in terms of her taking me down gently, but there is a HUGE difference between this and me just dropping alone.
So here is the fixation: doing it alone. Last Saturday I did a rare practice at home (having missed a day in the week), the entire purpose of which was to attempt to dropback whilst not in a room full of people (and with padding!). It’s funny how much this motivated me to do self-practice! I used the audio of Sharath’s counted class up to the Maris, and it moves along at quite a clip – it was great! Really excellent to have that to practice to, I found my mind was completely on my mat, perhaps even more so than in mysore practice at the shala, whereas normally a home practice is an endless barrage of crazy-brain-itus. Then from bujapidasana onwards I videoed my practice (as IF I would video navasana!!) as I have seen the first half of my practice (you can see a clip here - from a led class in Thailand), but never the second. And very illuminating it was too... I became convinced that the reason I can’t do buja is that my bum is too high in the air – what do you think?

Also I get stuck once I’m down there, though this was a slightly-less-bad-than-most-days version!

Seeing myself in supta kurmasana was fun too. And yes with my giant ego I posted an album of pictures on facebook with screenshots from the video for all to see (not my sucky buja of course, only the good ones!!). I’m not sure why I did it, but I know I enjoy seeing other people’s asana photos so what the hell...

Anyway the main event that I wanted to video was backbending. Even though it was half out of shot it was good to see how my urdhva dhanurasana looks when I’m not just faffing about on a beach (which is the only way I have ever seen it before). Then of course the hangbacks – I have to say, they feel really super-deep, more so in the past few weeks, but when I saw the video I was almost disappointed – they feel a lot deeper than they look! The only reason I care about how they look is that in my mind I have become convinced that when I hang back I am so close to the floor I only need reach down and I will touch gently and with great control. Putting the sofa cushions down for safety I soon discovered that this isn’t quite the case – the floor is MUCH further away than I thought! Also having watched my first ever attempt to dropback solo I can deduce one major thing: I just DROPPED. This was not a backbend! It just reminds me of that line in Toy Story – “that’s not flying, it’s falling with style” – that was me!

(haha god that video's boring - and it goes on forever!! But it took too long to upload so I'm not editing it now ;)
So having tried this at home, not broken my head, but having become a little less confident in my readiness to do it, I went back to the shala on Sunday and we started working on this new hand-grippy pull-forward by invisible secret powers method. The first day with this method I think Cary also put her hand on my back as I landed so the landing was still very gentle and controlled. The next day she introduced the extra cycle of breath here and told me to really push into her hand, and bring the awareness there. The week has been up and down, and I have been feeling all sorts of niggley injuries since then, but today was OK. The thing that I am fixating on is that several of my lovely shalamates have said to me after practice that I am ready to do it alone, and that I should just do it and what am I waiting for? So I think yes of course I can do it! Tomorrow I’ll just dropback on my own! Then when I get to it, I just don’t. When S asks me what I am afraid of I say that I’m not, but in that moment when I am hanging back thinking “shall I go?” I don’t do it. It’s as simple as that: do, or don’t do. My brain can intellectualise it all I like, but in the moment something is stopping me. Primarily I think I am waiting to be told by Cary that I am ready, but for now there are so many other things at play in my head. Next week I am heading off to Goa, and of course I want to do it before I leave, especially as C will go on maternity leave while I am away. And I want to do it with her! And my ego is also wanting to learn it as quickly as possible – 2 months!! But on the flip side, think how great it would be to do my first dropbacks in Goa with Kino? And that will be super-fast in the grand scheme of things. But I have constructed this whole reasoning that I MUST do this before I go, which is ridiculous. But today I think I let that go. C was out of the room and S was assisting, and watching me hang back. I turned and laughed knowing that she was watching and willing me to drop to the ground, but then Cary came back in just as I was ready for assisted and we told her that I’d been talking about it. But instead of saying “Yes you’re ready, do it!” she showed S the new assist she’s been doing. And the first one was good, the second not so good, the third better, and the fourth I just fell with style. As she gave me the paschimo squish, Cary said that the only difference in her hand being there or not being there is awareness. Once I am used to it I will go back like a hinge from the hips (apparently) but for now I need to learn to separate the torso and bring the awareness to moving that part of my chest forwards. She said it’ll just take time. What she didn’t say was you’re ready, do it now – so I think for now at least, I’m going to let go of the idea of having done this before I leave for India. But of course in the land of doublethink, I’m already thinking this will be the secret to suddenly being able to do it...and saying it here jinxes any possibility that I will. Double-cross-doublethink!


  1. jeez, good for you for even 'falling with style'! way more than I've ever done! And I gotta tell you, your Bhudj doesn't look bad at all. I'm still the beating you in awfulness on that one :) So fun to see your video!

  2. Thanks so much for posting these. I'm now incredibly curious to see what my Bhuja P looks like - it doesn't feel like my backside is getting that high, but maybe it is?

    And your exit is exactly the same as mine, one leg at a time and then both feet down - though I seem to take a whole load of recovery time at that point!

    Your 'falling' certainly looks very stylish to me. Two months doesn't sound very long to the woman who's been obsessed with headstand for a full year!

    It sounds from Cary's comments that - surprise! - the dropbacks just need practice. And more practice. And then some more practice . . .

  3. Actually on watching the buja video again, that is a GREAT version for me! This week at the shala I have flung myself onto my arse every time I tried to unwrap my feet. Hoping that Kino may be able to help me with this but I won't pin too much on it!
    R I'd highly recommend doing a video if you can, it has been really helpful for me to see certain things! Though other things look very different from how they feel and so it can be a little offputting, but I think generally it is worth doing. Also interesting to find out that I look so ANGRY when I practice!!
    But yes, that's what Cary is saying just keep doing it. And remember it took me a year to stand on my head too...then one day - tadaaa! I could just do it!

  4. Brilliant Mel, you are progressing nicely. I wouldn't say you look "angry" just serious.

    Video is a good teacher, it can help make some teachers comments make sense, when you see what they see and you see what you need to do.

    At home I would have the cushion against a wall so it can't go anywhere when you land.

  5. Double-cross-doublethink!! HA HA!!! I love that!

    You're adorable, first of all.

    For Bhuja, is there anyway to try lowering without shimmy-ing your legs quite so far up on your arms? It feels awkward, but the control is greater for going down (also- yeah, your bum is too high, only because you're positioned yourself for a great Tittibhasana not Bhuja!). Your weight is too much in the front (like you're doing a headstand), which probably makes you feel like no way in hell will you ever get your chin down. But it's so possible and you're so close!

    When you lower, with the legs farther back on the arms, think of the arms lowering the body down together first, before putting your head on the floor, you may find it makes putting the chin down seem just as easy (because you won't be putting weight on the head/chin). I feel like I'm making no sense at all...

    For the last bit- if you can keep your legs up, try squeezing your heels together in the Bakasana part. I think if you get the first part of the pose more evenly balanced, you'll find that keeping the legs lifted in the end will feel much easier. Squeezing the heels together is a way to gain some control by making the body a unit. Even if they don't touch (the heels), it will feel like your legs are coming together with more power and not so wiggly wobbly. It's hard, don't get me wrong!

    Hope this advice isn't annoying! And hopefully it makes sense!

  6. Good advice from Evelyn! (Evelyn, can I call you Evvie, like we call my one-year-old niece? I want to..)

    My bhuja is pretty sucky, but I actually do it better if I jump in, because I land lower down my arms. Not suggesting you jump in.. just like Evie said, don't get your shoulders so far under your arms... then there's a pivot action. Kino will get you doing it for sure, it's a matter of distributing your weight differently.

    Your first dropback is sweet (sorry if that's annoying!!)... you get totally into position, and then just crash back with a flat back. But you went back... that's massive! You look almost distraught afterwards, but I think it's just the single-minded determination to go again, haha.. By the way I don't think you look angry when you practice, just very serious. You can always practice with a slight smile.. feels good :) :)

    The second one is much better, you retain the curve you created in the upper back on the way down, landing your hands much closer to your feet and still in a backbend. Easy peasy :)

    And yes Evie, she is adorable!

    Mel, sorry if this post is obnoxious, but you know you're my yoga little sister and we're going to Goa together SOON!

  7. OK first Evelyn (or should I say Evie?), you made my day!! And I think you might enjoy hearing that when I read your post I put my laptop on the floor and tried to follow your instructions..without a mat and whilst wearing a shortish skirt and wooly tights (and with a huge amount of dinner & home-baked biscuits inside of me) and I landed my chin!! WTF?! But then I got COMPLETELY stuck! I thought I was going to have to call my lodger to rescue me! Funnily enough it was from watching a Kino video online that I started the shuffling the legs further up the arms technique so I think I may need to get the lady herself to help. But I also want to try following what you say - maybe whilst Susan reads out her and your comments to me - while we are on our YOGA CAMP together!!!

    Susan that's not annoying at all :) When I told Cary about it she summed it up as "TIMBER!" and that's pretty spot on. I think maybe I was a teensy bit distraught as in my head it was going to be easier than it was...the floor was so far away! But yes I think I just needed to try so that I at least knew the reality instead of living in a fantasy - I haven't tried it again since though. It all went really well today but then Thursday had been rubbish, and tomorrow could be again, it seems pretty much like sometimes I step forward, sometimes back, but it's all just practice :)
    And I can't WAIT to be in Goa with you! I have visions of boarding-school style gossiping after lights out...probably with me asking you to explain all this stuff to me...YAY!!!! xx

  8. Congrats on your progress... Keep working and stay determined.

  9. Not Boring at all. Without the editing it becomes more interesting to watch..."will she succeed or not...?" The cushion makes it something really close to the viewer. Who hasn't been in this living room, trying to find props that aren't for sale in the yogashop but work nonetheless perfectly. (Maybe if you turn it 90 degrees you will be able to put your hands next to it and still your head would be supported. Or are the cushions perfect squares?).
    I love this. Please send more!

  10. nice to discover your blog