After my hands slipped apart today in Supta K, I slowly made my way back to Down Dog. As I luxuriated in having nothing left but one more pose before the Moon Day (not counting backbends and finishing poses), I heard Sir call out to me.
“Shall we try it again?”
You see, it is becoming a known-fact amongst those who have intimate knowledge of my practice (Sir, Lori and my fellow teacher-trainees) that the trick to success in a posture for me is repeating it ad nauseum. For me, there is no such thing as diminishing returns. Within reason, at least. Three or four Supta K’s in a row is going to produce a really awesome Supta K on the fifth try. But maybe not the tenth.
I know, I am a bit strange. Oftentimes, my experience in yoga is pretty much the opposite of everyone else’s.
So, anyway, of course we tried it again. And of course, the second time was much better. Yeah, my hand slipped apart, but Sir gave me a handtowel to hold, and as I held it, my fingers actuall FOUND EACH OTHER. Hooray. It’s the little things, you know? My head went waaaaaaay down underneath my ankles as well. I look forward to the day that someone can actually sit on my back in this pose. Of course, that will be in about, I don’t know, ten years?
Incidentally, I decided last night, appropos of nothing, that I no longer really care if I ever get past Garba Pindasana. I can touch my chin to the floor in Baddha Konasana already, and all of the poses after that are basically just rolling back and forth and stretching out the lower back and the hamstrings, with the exception of Setu Bandasana, which I can already do fairly well, but not for the right reasons. See, I can lift up into it out of sheer strength and bandhas. It really should be about the backbend though. But I am working hard on my backbends now, no longer letting my ego get in the way of using the wall for leverage. More about that in a minute.
But anyway, yeah, so, I really couldn’t care less if I ever move past where I am now because, well, what difference would it make? My practice would be, what, five minutes longer with six additional chatturangas thrown in? I don’t need to work out longer, and I don’t need to build up six chatturangas worth of strength. What I need to be doing is exactly what I am doing: Yoga Chikitsa. And the Chikitsa (translation: therapy) for me is opening my chest and softening my hips and generally easing the tension that is in my body. Supta K is nothing but a microcosm of all of the issues for which I need the Yoga Chikitsa in the first place. It’s where all of the work is at now. It’s where all of the results will be. When my body is done working through whatever it needs to work through, then I will no longer need the therapy. At that point, the pose will be far less of a challenge, and I can move on, nay, I will NEED to move on. But that need is not there now. The need right now is for the therapy that Supta K offers.
Another distinct advantage to being where I am at, apart from the fact that it’s not like there is any choice in the matter because my body is what it is and will be what it will be, is that now, I am so competent at all of the Primary Series right up to Supta Kurmasana that it takes me less than 50 minutes to do my entire practice, minus the backbends and finishing poses, and when I get to backbends, I still have a storehouse of energy (prana, I guess) remaining. And what do I do with that energy? I use it for really developing my backbends.
Since for me it is now about how it feels, as opposed to how it looks, I shamelessly go RIGHT to the wall for backbends practice. I put my hands on the radiator and press up inching my chest toward the wall in a way that would not be possible without the leverage of that radiator. And when I rest in between backbends, I place my head on the radiator and keep my chest lifting. Each INHALE is a chance to press the chest up and away from myself, to begin the process of freeing the heart center from the shackles that surgery (and probably, a lifetime of self-protective impulses) imposed. I walk my feet toward the wall to try to bring my arms to vertical. Not there yet, but moving ever closer, millimeter by millimeter. And then when I feel truly open, I go back to my mat and do a few backbends unsupported.
Last night, I dreamt that I was practicing backbends against a wall, walking my hands down the wall, and somehow, even in the dream I didn’t know how, I found my legs nearly vertical and my arms nearly vertical, my feet a mere foot or two from my hands. The fact that I can even dream it means, in my mind, that there is hope for me yet.
And speaking of hope: It is May, it is sunny and it almost feels like summer. This is the season of the year I have long been waiting for – the warm season of the fifth year since my cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed in the summer, and so with the advent of the warm season, I know that the five year anniversary of my diagnosis is JUST around the corner now. In fact, it is a mere three months away. I can’t believe that that much time has passed. Five years is not an “I’m Cured!” date in breast cancer, unfortunately. Breast cancer can recur any time, even 20 years later. But it is also true that every day that passes makes it less likely. And prehaps more importantly, every day that has passed is another day that I have spent on this earth, watching my children grow, contributing to their lives and their memories, another day that I have spent enjoying my life, which was never guaranteed, and never IS guaranteed. And five years certainly sounds good to people, so even though I know they are wrong, it’s still nice to see it reflected in their faces that I’ve somehow “made it”.
I wouldn’t wish breast cancer on myself. I wouldn’t go back and do it all again, if I had the choice. That would be just plain dumb. But at the same time, I’m happy to be able to surprise people with the information that I am a five-year breast cancer survivor, with long hair and a youthful attitude and a yoga practice. And I’m proud that I’ve moved on with my life, even if I talk about it now and then. And I feel lucky and all “there but for the grace of God go I” that God or whatever forces are out there, made it possible for me to be saying this.