Backbends With Dave

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the day is the self practice in the hall from 9-12.  After the 7-9 am class, I often leave, eat half a watermelon or a coconut, and get back to the hall by 9:30 for 2 1/2 hours of practice.   In some ways, even though there is no teacher, this block of time is like a master class all in itself.  To be surrounded by 60-80 practitioners, all practicing diligently, exploring their capabilities, consciousness and creativity, is something that brings me joy day in and day out.

For me, yoga has always been a deeply personal and somewhat private journey.  People have asked to practice with me from time to time over the years and I generally always say no.  It just doesn’t interest me.  Perhaps part of the reason is because of the mirror this provides, and that it is sometimes  difficult for me to fully stay in myself when surrounded by other people, but whatever it is, when it comes to self practice, I’d rather do it alone.

My time in the hall every day is blasting that apart……..in a very safe way.  In one essence we are all practicing together, but in another we are really all practicing alone…..in the same space.  This allows for deep penetration, inspiration from other practitioners, and also complete respect for one’s space and privacy.  I have made some good friends in the hall and from time to time we come out of our poses, help each other, make suggestions and crack jokes.  It is a very nourishing part of the practice.

Today was back bend day.  My friend, Dave, had mentioned that today was his day to get over his fear of dropping back from Sirsasana.  Dave and I have been practicing next to each other the last three days and so I said sure, I was with him.  We wound up getting to the hall at the same time, setting up our mats, and starting our warmup.  Trikonasana, Gomukhasana, Paschima Namaskar; we separately did our own things to open up the back, rib cage and shoulders.  I did a variation of headstand where instead of being on the crown of the head, the head tilts back and you are on the bridge of your nose.  (There is not a headstand that makes my neck feel better and I generally do it as prep before dropping back).   Even before I came out of the pose, a voice whispered from behind me and said, “you ready?”  “Sure”, I replied.

For the next 5 minutes, Gary, Dan and I assisted Dave in dropping back.  He did it about 6 times, and 2 or 3 on his own, for the first time ever.  Then it was my turn and I immediately felt a sense of joy.  Gary came over and gave me some assistance with a belt, and for moment there I was standing on my head, with my legs parallel to floor……behind me.  It was a feeling my body had never felt before.  I wound up doing about 5 or 6 more, each one amplifying the joy I felt inside.  By the time I was done, I felt exhilerated and was able to shoot love beams out of my eyes.  Dave was too.  He was right there, smiling, sweating, laughing.  We were both so happy.

We wound up practicing together for the next 45 minutes or so, all a prep for Kapotasana.  We went into Urdvha Dhanurasana and I looked at him and said, “let’s do a bunch!”  We pushed up into 25 straight, then did about 5 more with more precision, then went to the wall for some other variations. By the time we were done, including the Viparita Dandasana’s, we did about 50-60 in total!

Each time it got difficult, or we got to a place in the body with little consciousness, Dave would say, “I’m going to Prashantify this one.”  Which, loosely translated, means to put your awareness on the energetics around a given area and let the energy create the physical change.  Each time he did, his pose deepened.

Towards the end of my practice, I almost got into Kapotasana (my physical asana goal for my time here).  My left shoulder just doesn’t have the motor control yet to make the turn.  But what I found truly amazing was as I looked around the hall, so many people were practicing back bends.  Some were dropping back from headstand, others were taking very creative variations of Viparita Dandasana that I had never seen.  There was a cosmic consciousness in the air, a feeling that we are all alone and all together at the same time.  A feeling of friendship and comradery.

As I’m here in Pune, and here at the Iyengar Hall, I realize one thing.  You can do yoga, but its much better when yoga is done to you.  There is a force all around us and even though the vehicle we have is the body, and there is a strong sense of “I” with that, the more we let go and let yoga take us, the more joy and happiness and connection we feel.  For me, its not just connection to myself and to God, but to others as well.  And, I know that as much as I’d like enlightenment and freedom from all the suffering, what I’m really going for, what I really feel is available, is simply just connection.

 Guruji in Viparita Dandasana

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