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Bending Backwards to Move Forwards

Posted Oct 27 2011 1:07pm

Happy icky, rainy disgusting Thursday, everyone! It’s one of those New York days that made me wish I lived in Florida.  Where the sun shines all the time. Except for, you know, the hurricanes.

While I had a wonderful cardio workout this morning – 5 minutes incline walking (7.5% at 4.2mph) 15 minutes running (from 6-6.5mph) and 40 minutes elliptical – nothing makes me want to have a yummy, gooey home practice more than a gray, rainy day.  While I couldn’t be at home all day as I teach on the east side, I was able to hang out at my aunt’s house with her cute dogs and practice.  I love that my entire family lives within 3 miles.  It’s so amazing.


My aunt's dog. See, he reads my blog!

When I first started practicing yoga, backbends were, to be perfectly frank, a bitch.  While many of my fellow practitioners would lavish in urdvha dhanurasana and take delight in ustrasana , whenever the teacher started talking about “heart-openers” I would inwardly groan and wish I was at the movies. Or the dentist.  It makes sense that these poses challenge me on many levels: for one, I have a herniated L5/S1 disc that, contrary to common sense or human anatomy, seems to delight in forward bends and cringe at backbends.  A great deal of my backbending practice has been working towards the extension of the lower back and tailbone towards the heels to decrease the compression of the lumbar spine.  On an emotional level as well, I find heart openers to be quite challenging.  After my father died suddenly when I was 15, I walked around with a great deal of shock and trauma, and tended to keep my heart both physically  and spiritually shut off, with slumped shoulders and a falsely sunny façade.

For the first four weeks of my home practice, I didn’t do a single backbend save for upward facing dog.


Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (UpDog)

This was definitely a healthy choice for me, as I wanted to establish my home practice as a delightful respite, not a place to do homework. However, I am now at the where I want to explore them more. I feel that it is vital it is for me to practice all the types of asana, especially the ones that I have no interest in exploring. For me to teach, it is essential for the poses to be in my body, or else I am just a mouth piece. As a student, one of the reasons I practice is to overcome my own obstacles, both real and imagined. And most importantly, as a spiritual being, one of the greatest gifts I can give to the world is to enter each day with a heart as open as humanly possible. So, here’s what I worked with in my home practice.

Please note, I am not suggesting this sequence, as it is not particularly well balanced.  I knew I wanted to do about 30 minutes of practice, and would be tired by the time I got home, so focused strongly on warming up the involved body parts rather than a full practice.

Urdva Dhanurasana sequence

Sukhasana w/ shoulder floss
Hold elbows behind
Gomukhasana arms
AMS –>
AMS –> 3 legged dog R/L –> Plank –> vashistasana –> Rock star –> vashistasana –> Plank –> AMS 2x
AMS –> Up Dog  –> AMS on blocks 3x
Last AMS – low lunge backbend –> AMS R/L
AMS –> High lunge R/L
Bridge pose
Urdvha Danurasana 3x, 1 with blocks under hands, 1 with block between thighs and with strap on arms, and 1 without props
Supported badha konasana


Vashistasana (somewhere between I and II)





Low Lunge


Urdvha Dhanurasana (Not the greatest photo as I had the camera on a timer!)

Be brave, be kind, and be truthful.

Namaste, family!

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