Why do you try to touch your feet to your heels in a backbend, my orthopoedic surgeon asked me.
Why do you need to push your thoracic spine into a bend when its natural form is kyphotic (curved out, not arched in)?
I was asking him what I should do about my Stage I osteo-arthritic wrists, when they hurt in full wheel. His answer: don’t do it when it hurts. Joints experience degeneration over time, he explained. Do you want to exacerbate it?
Hmmmm. Well, I explained, most of my teachers offer suggestions for me to deepen my backbend to get the weight off my wrists.
That was when he pulled out the big ammo: WHY?
Why do I do this?
I do yoga to stay fit. Period. I wanted to do all of Primary without help. Check. I wanted to do the beginning of Second in order to get my backbends back after years of Primary-related neglect. Check. The rest? Hell if I know.
I explained to him that the teachers pull students into poses they can’t quite do on their own. I explained that the teachers get us deeper than we otherwise might. I told him of suggestions by teacher-level cybershala students to “take the leg behind the head and PULL DOWN WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT”.
Sure, some yogis are doing the crazy poses well into their 60’s and beyond. But they may well be the exception, and not the rule.
Maybe at age 43, with signs of impending arthritis in my joints and a very real limitation in my backbending ability in the form of scarring and skin-tightness due to my double mastectomy, I should just ENJOY where I am in the practice and stop striving to improve?
Maybe it is time to just say no to any form of being muscled into any pose? Like, just saying no to having my fingers pulled to my toes in Kapotasana? Because there is this other possibility that I don’t seem to have ever considered, and that is that over time, some poses get easier and call for a deepening (example: paschimotanasana), but that deepening could happen naturally, as opposed to the result of a teacher yanking limbs, however artfully. That deepening could be discovered by the student finding her own hands reaching her own toes.
I am shocked by my receptivity to being essentially called a fool for buying into this manhandling in the name of “going deeper”. Maybe it made sense some years ago when I was getting started, when my goal was clear: finish Primary because it is supposedly therapeutic as a gestalt, and indeed I believe it has been. But now, what IS my agenda? I don’t have one really other than “get my feet to my toes in Kapo”?
But WHY? Kapo is not necessary for “yoga chikitsa” (yoga therapy – putting the body right). Kapo is just, well, it would be an ego boost for me. But that is flawed thinking.
As for Legs Behind Head poses, those will come or not if my body reaches for them. I no longer will cajole them into existence. If getting deeper in Eka Pada Sirsasana suddenly calls for me to have my leg lying softly across the backs of my shoulders, then I’ll know. But until then…WHY? Why push it?
I KNEW this was happening. First I gave up Torah. Then “God”. Now Ashtanga.
I want yoga to enhance my life, not to take over my life.
So there you have it. Today, I took my innaugural five-mile run down the main road between Bedford and Greenwich, in the drizzling rain, and it was lovely. No worries about my hips or hammies going tight, which is ludicrous because:
WHY? Why would it matter? Would I lose my job with Cirque du Soleil? Oh. Wait. I don’t bend for a living. And I don’t want to live to bend. I just want to bend, and live and age gracefully, not fighting aging as an enemy.
Later tonight, I’ll watch some boob tube and do some stretches to stay supple. Reasonable goal.