Musings on bending backwards

May 10, 2014

46133_10152230754909703_660897958_nAbout twenty years ago I recall one of my teachers,Judith Hanson Lasater, reminding us to practice three Urdhva Dhanurasanas (Upward Facing Bow Pose) every day (or maybe it was twice a week). At the time, backbends were easy for me and I took them for granted. Even two years ago I could press up from the floor fairly easily.Somewhere along the way, this past year (2013), my backbend practice grew increasingly sporadic. I gained weight, and the stiffness of sitting at the computer converged with the stiffness of aging.Last year and at the beginning of this year, when I tried to press up from the floor, my body felt like dead weight. If I had forced lifting up into the pose I risked injuring my shoulders. But this week, after five weeks of not perfect but fairly steady practice, I was thrilled to find myself lifting up into Upward Facing Bow Pose again—and holding the pose for many breaths—over a minute.This morning, for the first time in a long time, I pressed up from the floor lying back over two stacked bolsters secured with a strap.In my classes, students in my age range (65) press up by holding onto my ankles with me giving some support as needed, under their shoulders. But I also want them to practice independent of a teacher. And a yoga chair, a backbender, or stack of bolsters, makes this possible.

The way I’m practicing now is with the chair on a firm, non slippery mat, the seat of the chair facing a wall, about a foot away from the wall, depending on your height and flexibility.

I warm up with the chair backbend shown here, and then (still lying back over the chair seat) I place my feet flat on the floor and extend my arms overhead so that my palms are flattened against the wall behind my head, fingertips touching the floor (or palms higher up the wall).

After I anchor my feet, turning the feet and the thighs inward, and after I stretch my arms to the maximum, opening the shoulders and arm pits, I press my feet into the floor, anchoring the four corners of the feet, and, voila, I lift the spine higher and higher off the chair, chest moving toward the wall . . . until my chin touches the wall.

It’s totally rejuvenating. “You are as young as your spine is flexible!”

Yoga teacher Betsy MacKinnon writes: “I love this supported backbend too and it is still totally accessible at 68. Some people need to support the head though. Mr Iyengar says we need more backbends with long holdings at this time of life and from now on.”

Click here for Yoga with a Chair:

* * *
February 17, 2014
First yoga practice inside my new hippie writing yoga pad, which is about the same amount of space as a “Tiny House.” With two dogs, a cat and her deluxe cat carrier, to make space for my yoga mat, I have to get Honey off the floor–she gladly jumps on top of the bed. There’s just enough room to practice all the Standing Poses, including Half Moon Pose and Warrior III–the two Standing Poses that take the most space.

While it’s true that you can practice yoga anywhere, anytime, I have to say again that it makes a huge difference motivating me to practice early in the morning now that I again have a bird’s eye view of the pre dawn sky above the majestic mountains, and, a little later, the blazing bright rising sun.

This morning, after the Standing Poses, I folded up my sticky mat to pad the edge of the seat of the chair, as shown here, and enjoyed a long stay in a Supported Backbend, including the variation shown here.

* * *
January 19, 2014
Time to practice on the great yoga chair. This photo, from my book, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause, was taken about 15 years ago. I’m no longer this slender, but, thankfully, my spine is still flexible and my mind is in a much better place.

 — in Ojai, CA.



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