Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just dropping in

Last weekend while working on handstand during a yoga workshop I enjoyed playing with balancing and attempting to extend my ability to maintain the inverted position. Handstand brings such a fresh and lively perspective to my body and brings out the kid in me. I love the dynamic interplay of:
  • the 3 3rds of the body - the legs/pelvis, the core and the shoulder/arm regions
  • the skin, the muscles and the structure of the bones
  • the bandhas and the breath
  • the hands and fingers; the feet and toes
Working with my toes to get a good contact
Once toes are established I begin to slowly and with control descend to the floor
reaching really, really strongly through my arms
getting my fingers and hands in place
gathering skin to muscle, muscle to bone
and feeling the rope with my toes
Contact made, I begin to play with balance
notice how my feet are drawing back
I push my hands into the floor, firm up the core
and bring my feet forwards
Dynamic interplay back and forth as
balance is attained
just another view
toe bones touch and legs work together as one
Bear in mind that I am proficient in balancing in the centre of the room for brief periods of time and descending into handstand from the ropes enables me to have the benefit of subtle support and feedback provided by the grip of my toes on the ropes and the padding at my back body. I am in no danger of falling backwards as I am able to come out by bringing my legs down in front of me with control.

My core is strong enough that with the benefit of: mula and uddyana bandha; even, focused and controlled breathing, I can draw the floating ribs and the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) towards each other, filling out T12 and creating lift and lightness in the pose. 

As I descend my fingers are spread and the contact of my hands are slightly clawed (this is an old gymnastics technique) so that the finger tip pads, the base of the fingers and the heels of the hands provide a solid base from which ample feedback to and from the rest of the body is exchanged thus enabling the subtle movements required for balance to take place. The fingers and the muscles in the arms communicate with each other as do the toes and leg muscles.

From gymnastics I know that the more you "push" into the floor, the more lift you get. So, pushing into the floor drives awareness into the core/T12 and through it into the legs and feet. Conversely filling out T12 enables the hands to drive into the earth as the legs shoot upwards to the heavens. Activating the legs and feet reflexively activates the arms and hands and vice versa. The skin draws into the muscle and the muscle into the bone; I feel tall, long and lean (though I am none of these things) and it feels exactly like diving from a 3 metre board (I used to dive in university). Ahhh, what a lovely feeling!

Unfortunately it is almost impossible to write about the work without dissecting what is really a dynamic, organic interplay of actions allowing the pose to take full flight.

For more on yoga with ropes check In the Bat Room and Just Hanging Out

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