In my journey of a yoga teacher, where people look at me and hope that I will be able to give them guidance about where to go in their practice, there is this tendency of wanting to be “look” perfect. Perfectly calm, perfectly wise, perfectly smooth in and out of poses, perfect in many different ways. I sometime fall into this too, but the learner inside of me, a lifetime practitioner who is always triving to learn, understand that there is no human with perfection without their imperfection. The journey of yoga to finest our skill, as like anything else in life, is a constant journey of trial and error, stand up and fall (and stand up again), run uphill and slip downhill. No perfection without imperfection.
So as last week where I took my students in their practice with the intention of celebrating ourselves, included in it embracing our strength as well as our limitation, one of my student said “Oh Iir, it seems like celebrating ourselves is much easier said than done.” Well, it is true, because in celebrating ourselves we have to be honest to ourselves to admit and embrace our limitation as well as our strength, without brushing it to the side and pretend it was not there.
“How on earth can we embrace our fear then??”, this student continue. Well, fear whether we want it or not, it is crucial in our life. It is something we carry from the ancient life of our human race, in our DNA, to alert us to fight or flight. When we hit this “state of fear”, to always choose flight doesn’t take us into an improvement, to be in a better state of oursleves. We keep drawing ourselves back and not challenging ourselves to be better than before. Always choose to fight is also not a clever solution because we could lost more rather than we gain, and no living things can afford to keep loosing. So the most important is how to be clever when we hit the “fear” state. Most often, there is a specific reason why we fear of something, usually it because we feel unsafe of our wellbeing. So admit it, we don’t want our wellbeing harmed. Next, is finding a way to approach the situation without risking our wellbeing. Find a way to approach it as safely as possible.
Eight years ago, I first time encounter chinstand (Ganda Bherundasana). I was 3 months after giving birth of my 1st son, and although I have been practicing yoga as long as I could remember, this pose was off the table. A year later I came across this pose again in a yoga class. In that time, I was those bendy ones who love backbend and gave all of mine to be in a pose 150%, so I gave it a go. Heck, I didn’t like the way it compress my neck. I was scared I broke my neck, I didn’t know how to fall safely without injuring my neck. As a result, I never visit that pose again.
In my recent practice where my point of few has been shifted massively from how the pose (I think) should look like into how it should feel, I started looking at the directions of those dark corners of mine that I locked away and brushed to the side. I started reading about how to go to chinstand, how to keep it safe, how to not taking unnecessary risk. Once in a while this pose came up in classes I attended, I have time a little bit to practice but often I don’t feel its enough. To master some skill I usually need “play time” on my own, and that is one of the thing I celebrate in “celebrating my greatness”, that I don’t mind to fall, to laugh, to embrace doing mistakes, to be okay to be imperfect.
From my reading, practicing, playing, trial and error, I found 2 ways of going to this pose, one feels (for me) a bit riskier, the other a bit safer. First, is by pulling the shoulderblades toward each other hence accentuate the backbend, the other way is by keeping the shoulderblades aparts and wrap it around the armpits although it means the backbend will not be as deep. I tried those tricks, and I have to admit that I prefer the second one where I can keep the integrity of my shoulder. Below is the stages.
If you come to my classes, you know that I always said that there is not only one way to go to somewhere, there is always another way. It is nothing to do of being right or wrong, only feeling safer than another. You know your body more than anyone else in the world, so listen to your body than anyone else. Maybe my tricks will work for you, maybe not. The most important is the journey you are taking to learn something new and being kind to yourself to give room from mistakes, to keep progressing in mindful way, and to have fun with it! To celebrate yourself and your life!
Start with several sun salutations to warm up your body.
- Get 2 bricks and put it in front of your hands. Come in downward facing dog with fingers spread apart and weight spread across the palm without collapsing your shoulder.
- Rest your shoulders in the bricks without collapsing your shoulder. Keep the abdominal engaged and look down toward your mat, slightly foward. In these stage, some suggested to try to look much foreward so you curving your upper spine including the back of your neck and pulling your shoulder blades together which I don’t really enjoy the feeling in my back so here I just keep my neck just slightly curved to give room to shulderblades to be away from each other and wrap around. Walk toward your feet until you can not walk in anymore.
- Lift one leg up, and try a gentle hop without releasing the engagement of abdomen and glutes and inner thigh.
- Enjoy the supported chinstand.