Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Quiet Leg's the Key

A few days ago, I balanced in Koundinyasana. This is a relatively new asana for me -- and by "new" I mean I've only been working on it for a couple of months. At first, I assumed it would be impossible for a long time, but I stuck around after class one morning and watched Sherman give pointers to someone else. That's when I had a revelation. I was concentrating on the wrong leg -- the show offy leg. The one that sticks out to the side, balanced on the bent arm. But the secret is in the less showy arm -- the one that is tucked under the body, supporting the quiet hip so the back leg can lift off the floor. I realized I often do this -- concentrate on the wrong body part. Most of the time there's no way to know this except by playing around with balance. But I've begun to consider this idea when I am having trouble with a pose.

As readers of this blog may know by now, I've been going at pincha maryasana for 11 months with my teacher, Sherman Morris's help. Recently he began to teach the pose with bent legs, as mentioned in my previous post. Yesterday morning, I balanced for more than a few seconds, with Sherman there -- but there was a moment where he stepped away and I remained upright. Or rather, downright. Downright upside down!!!!! Of course, the class kept moving. No time to stop and pat myself on the back. We returned to the pose twice more, and I didn't manage to repeat. But I came home and visualized the asana over and over as I went about my day. I kept falling backward -- and assumed my problem was my kick up -- or rather "float up" -- that I wasn't putting enough power behind it. But then it occurred to me in an aha! moment: it's the back leg that's keeping me earthbound! As I was going upside down, the lever of my back leg was extended -- longer than the bent front leg -- so of course it would pull me back to the ground. A lightbulb went off in my brain. The trick is to bend the left leg into a right angle as I go up! Again, it's the less sexy limb that is actually the key to the asana.

So I rolled out my mat at Yogaworks this morning, determined to balance -- not once -- but three times. The bent leg trick worked. Sherman was there all three times -- no solo flight yet. But on my third trip....

He's been encouraging us to try scorpion after a couple pinchas. I have written off this feat as years down the road. I find scorpion to be the most beautiful of asanas. In fact, I have a photo ripped from Yoga Journal of a woman in scorpion pose taped to the inside of my medicine cabinet where I see it several times a day. I look at it as a sort of far-off-over-the-rainbow aspiration. But there I was in my brand new balanced split leg pincha -- and Sherman said "bring both knees back." I knew where this was going, and as about to freak out, but I trust him, and I was already upside down so... I brought my knees back. He told me to open my heart or chest or something and I was magically able to locate the appropriate body part -- I followed his instruction and all of a sudden I was in scorpion (siamese scorpion, since Sherman was holding me up). I don't know if I was there for five seconds or five hours, but talk about not resting on your laurels! Now I have a whole new project. One that, before today, felt impossible.

The finish line keeps moving.

And that is the practice. Of everything.

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