I took all of last week off, except for Tuesday. Too much life, too much work, too much article writing, et cetera. I returned to practice yesterday, doing the usual Primary and to Supta Vajrasana.
Often I imagine myself somewhere else; it's not a willed thing, it just happens during practice: old Mysore rooms, even Youtube videos. I imagine company, audience (depending). The effect of this begins as extra energy (remember I'm a big extrovert) but it always ends with tension, performance anxiety. It starts within me and it ends outside me, distracting.
Yesterday I imagined teaching students, in the spirit of demonstration, and eventually this faded "into" just practicing, and it got really breath intensive (which was not willed either). Just bigger inhales, exhales; longer ones. Probably inspired by Grim's experiments with Vinyasa Krama and its emphasis on bandhas.
Longer breaths make panicky or tight poses easier. Sure, we've heard that nugget before, but to PUT IT IN YOUR BODY is a whole different animal; seriously, it has nothing in common with the cute little yoga statement. Experience does NOT devolve into language, not without losing something that is ESSENTIAL.
I made myself lengthen breaths in hard places like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, Marichyasana D, particularly on the second side, Navasana (that takes some WILLPOWER, folks--to hold that fifth one for long breaths???!!!), Supta Kurmasana, the rolls of Garbha Pindasana, the pull of the shins toward the face in Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. Longer makes calmer. I wasn't out of breath after Supta K, for the first time in I don't remember how long. I was never rushed anywhere, there was a deep and residing calm in the whole thing IN MY BODY, but the mind was rushing around, panicking about balance or about intense stretching or about endurance, always doubting me/itself in hard poses. But I forced myself to extend breaths in those places and no disaster occurred (none does anyway; so you come out of Navasana; what do you lose?).
I can't seem to settle on a backbends strategy. Over and over I write what I'm going to do, and then I do something different. So be it.
Yesterday, and extending into today, I decided to hold each Urdhva Dhanurasana for ten breaths, no matter what it took. I don't yet have the endurance to do this and come down to my head between. But I did four yesterday, with a full come-down between and some recovery breaths. But that's 40 breaths of backbends, and in the longer holds, tight spots begin to dissolve. It's broader rather than a set of sharp peaks in intensity, if that makes sense. Today I did all five, so 50 breaths with recovery breaths in between. I LOVE holding UD for ten breaths. It's not hard. But of course, coming down halfway between, and then pressing up, sustaining the backbend, THAT's hard. I'll build it.
How does this affect my dropbacks-standups? The effects are good.
I notice that with each backbend, my hands move closer to my feet (again, my rug is striped and so I can see this progress). I still drop back feet wide, and I feel them turn out a bit as I drop, then I turn them back in when I land. I'm at the point now where I can hang back and see myself reflected in the TV screen behind me, which is about 14 inches off the floor and five feet, maybe, behind me (this is indoor practice, of course, no longer by the garage). It's definitely a 90 degree bend and then some, and I can feel the spine get long as I bend, the bend is really happening in the low abs, right in the hip flexors. Good good stuff. Hands over is hard now; turns up the stretch to the point of discomfort, fairly easily. But I extend my arms fully, inhale, exhale drop. I land semi-softly; it's ballistic but not TOO far.
Yesterday I did not make it to standing; to knees, three times. Today I made it to standing what I will call two-and-a-half times. I land, walk in, and inhale, pop the hands off the rug, then they land again. Inhale again, pop the hands up, and mostly they land, although in the latter two standups today, I sprung to standing on the second throw. The first time, I came up, but lifted my head BEFORE my chest, and lost the balance. NEARLY standing, but lost it and crashed onto hands and butt. That hurt the right wrist, but not for more than about a minute. The next two times, I came up springy, had to step to fix it in space (which would have cost me points if I'd been an Olympic gymnast), but DEFINITELY two springy standups; no wall necessary.
Very cranked about that when it happened, but mellower about it now. Kapo was still a mess, but I think of my UD practice as building resources for it. Maybe with a single adjustment (the way Clayton changed my Baddha K forever), Kino can set my Kapo on the good path at the end of October.