mulling things over, poses

Fooling around with variations

This morning I did something very simple that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I sat cross-legged and did a forward bend. OK, yes, of course I’ve done that before. But because my hips are so exceedingly stiff, I always round my back. I simply cannot tip my pelvis forward very far.

The difference this morning was that I did not allow my back to round at all. I kept my sitting bones right on the blanket instead of allowing them to lift up. I focused completely on the stretch in my hip joints. Anyone looking at me might have thought I was doing very little. In fact, I felt it very powerfully.

This is a variation I don’t remember any teacher doing in class. Most people have no trouble with forward bends, and so there’s no reason for a teacher to isolate this part of the pose. For me, there are big reasons. I suspect that other people with a consistent home practice come around to working on these seemingly minor variations that are specific to their own bodies.

Sometimes in class it seems very wussy to get out a chair when, say, we’re working on Padmasana. I’m sure nobody cares, but it’s so distracting. Sometimes I wonder if people are thinking “Why does Margaret let Mary stay in this class? She isn’t really at this level and never will be.”

When those thoughts arise, I remind myself that I am at a really good point in my practice even though there are many things I can’t do. I know how to make my own accommodations, and what I can and can’t do. If I can approximate a pose in a way that allows me to benefit from it, I do it. If I know a pose is going to put me at risk of injury, I know when to stop and do something else. (And I think I know what alternate pose is a good replacement.)

The hardest poses in class are the ones I simply can’t get close to. Some twists are like that, and of course my nemesis pose Upavistha Konasana (seated wide-angle). I’ve probably cried in that one more than any other. Everyone else in the class is raising their arms in Urdvha Hastasana and then folding way forward, and I’m sitting there struggling to keep from falling over backwards. If I lift my arms my back rounds and my knees come up immediately, so I don’t even bother. I just work hard to stay upright, pressing my knees to the floor.

Well! I didn’t intend to start writing about my struggles in class! However, it does lead me back to the title of this post. By doing Upavistha Konasana lying on the floor EVERY MORNING for at least 3 minutes, I think I’ll get somewhere. I’m going to keep doing my invisible cross-legged forward bend too. Those variations are what I need, not what anyone else needs. Except maybe my sister.

4 thoughts on “Fooling around with variations”

  1. Oh, I tried the cross-legged forward bend today and boy, is it a good stretch! Never would have thought of it if you hadn’t written this post, but it seems one worth doing every single day. It felt as if my piriformis muscle, which is ridiculously tight, was getting a really good stretch, and I’m thinking that might help loosen up the whole hip/lower back/right side. I’ll keep you posted.

    Do you ever do pigeon pose? That’s a good one for working on one side at a time, and even, it seems, incorporating (if you let your body drop a little to the outside) a mild bit of twist.

  2. Well, I give it a shot. Can’t get the bloom if you don’t plant the seed.

    Also – I wanted to remind you that even three minutes of a pose, even if it’s disconnected from a longer practice, can help. I’ve been doing that cross-legged forward bend (like you, I don’t know if anyone but me could tell I’m bending forward, but I sure feel it) right before I get into bed, in the dark, and find that it combined with some So Ham breaths is a nice relaxing pre-bed thing.

  3. I suspect that other people with a consistent home practice come around to working on these seemingly minor variations that are specific to their own bodies.


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