In ‘Part 1’ of this blog, we outlined a few gems that we are able to learn from our backbending practice. This included boldness, courage and compassion– three cornerstones of our asana practice that are particularly evident as we work through postures involving both the spine and the heart.
Here are three more lessons we can take from backbending asanas to strengthen our practice and enrich our lives:
- Release attachment. There are times in our yoga practice when we may become dazzled by the tricks – fancy inversions, displays of strength in arm balances, flexible limbs. While it is certainly possible to reach for impressive poses in a backbends practice, we will find much greater depth if we can stay present with where we are today, explore our current physical abilities, and understand that much of our asana practice is focused not on the end goal, but on the steps we take toward greater self-discovery. It will never matter how our practice compares to another person’s; through dedication and mindfulness, however, we are able to explore new depths and new shapes, and watch, unattached, our own progress unfold. Release the need to “nail” challenging asanas, and instead sit with your practice as it exists in the present, trusting that it will develop and unfold naturally.
- Strike balance. The primary focus in a backbends practice is often on the actual backbending, when in fact, this is only a part of the piece. In a class or a workshop devoted to this group of asana, we do not practice one heart-opening pose after another. We find balance. We will often hold a counter-pose – a forward fold, for example– twice as long as we were in our full wheel or our camel pose. This teaches us to explore new depths, in our practice and in our lives, and to draw attention and awareness to the flip side– to allow space for processing our growth, to absorb the benefits of the work that we’ve done, before we speed along to the next thing.
- Sit with discomfort. One comment I hear frequently from students in regard to their backbends practice is that they find backbends “uncomfortable.” Yes, this can be true, and is simply another way that our practice emulates our life. We do not always expect life to be comfortable. But, we know that it is through the discomfort that we can experience beautiful expansion and self-discovery. The same can be said for our practice on our mats. As we move into deeper postures, and begin to experience discomfort, how do we respond? Perhaps you find yourself wanting the sensations to be something different than they are. This presents a gorgeous opportunity to release the expectation of how it should feel and to instead, become curious about the inner workings of the posture. You might ask, how does the mind sound, what is it saying? What can this tell you about how you handle challenging moments? Can we sit in the posture for a moment, a breath longer, ultimately deepening and strengthening our practice? Most often, the answer is yes– and this is how we grow.
Last chance to sign up for “Blissed Out Backbends” with Ashley on Saturday, Oct 24, 12-2 p.m. Book in studio or online now.
About the author: Ashley Dunlop is an inspired, compassionate and supportive yoga instructor who loves guiding students to reach the next level of their practice. Backbends and heart-openers are Ashley’s favorite group of asanas, and she is elated to share her experience and expertise with those looking to elevate their overall state of being, deepen their practice and live with a heightened state of awareness, compassion and openness.