by guest author Trudi Collins, Yoga teacher at Synergy Fitness, Napier
After reading Kelly’s article about sankalpa’s, and KL’s inspiring 40 day commitment to Sodarshan Chakra Kriya pranayama, I thought I would share my experience (so far this year) with my sankalpa – to improve my backbends.
Backbends have always been the part of yoga I find most challenging – difficult, uncomfortable, occasionally nauseating…and if I’m not careful about staying within my edges my back will ache afterwards. For days. And therefore affect the rest of my practice. So, as you can imagine they are a) NOT my favourite thing, and b) very easy to miss out when I’m on the mat at home. Even though I know I should do them because I find them so challenging.
In my non-yoga life I’m an acupuncturist and body-worker, and I know from working with clients over the years that difficulty moving in a certain way almost invariably involves more than the body. We all have the perfect body for our journey in this life at this time – and our cells are kind enough to hold onto emotional baggage that we aren’t quite ready to deal with yet. This is part of what makes yoga so much more than exercise…as we work with freeing our body, we free up energy that may have been stuck for years – not always a comfortable proposition, but with courage it is definitely always interesting.
Because of this experience with others, I was sure in my case the inability to backbend (or heart opening!) was more than just physical.
So I asked a close friend if she could work with me on it. She is a physiotherapist who does a magical mix of hellerwork, bowen therapy and hakomi (body based psychotherapy) with all sorts of other bits picked up in her 40-odd year career thrown in. It was a fascinating experience, and pretty enlightening. The first half dozen times she worked deeply into my abdomen and diaphragm it was painful physically, and I felt a deep welling sadness…and cried for the duration. Sobbed, actually.
Then, during one session I distinctly felt a sword sliding in under my ribs on the left side – a completely weird sensation that bought on another storm of tears, and then the pain dissolved. Utterly. And I could lift my ribs more than I ever remember being able to in this life – bizarre, but true. AH! Says you, the reader – happy ending, now she can backbend, and all is well in the world. Well, not quite.
It did make standing backbends achievable, I could lift through my chest, and in general felt freer in myself – physically, mentally and emotionally. But lifting my head back was still painful. And in the intervening years, I got distracted a little from my backbend mission – had a baby, that sort of thing. So, at the start of this year, I decided it was time to get back into them. Instead of making a new years resolution, I made a sankalpa, and let it go.
I’ve always been able to backbend in my head (if you know what I mean) and really feel it in my body at the same time, but actually doing them? Er…not so pretty.
As part of my sankalpa, instead of getting frustrated that the day-to-day reality is different from what it feels like I can do, I am just trusting that I’ll get there one day. Instead of chastising myself for not being able to do it perfect, I’ll do it perfect for me, with each breath, each day.
So, I’ve made ustrasana part of my daily practice. I would like to say I do it everyday, but everyday doesn’t always happen, however 4-5 times a week does. I’m being gentle with myself – 8 breaths in the posture, generally three times. At the start of this week, I was shocked to find myself actually enjoying it, almost relaxing there…and this morning, I could put my hands on the floor, next to my feet, and lift all the way through my chest with my head back – AND ENJOY IT!!!
And it is still January!!! Waa-hoo!!
So…I guess there is a happy ending after all.
After thinking about my experience, over the years, there is no doubt in my mind that having help from my friend made a difference – though I know I would have gotten there with yoga eventually. But the biggest change that had to happen was in me…it has taken years to trust that my body is doing it perfectly already. When that happened gathering the courage to make a sankalpa was easy, and it has only been a month to start seeing genuine change. Not much time huh?
Now comes the encouragement! Please think about making a sankalpa this year…whether it is something physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual that you want to change in your life, take the plunge and trust yourself. As Rachel used to say, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”
Please just do a little bit everyday!!