In one of my recent post on yoga I mentioned my anatomical advantage with backbends. My regular teachers like H. knows it, so he refuses to allow me to cheat when it comes to backbends. "You're more flexible than that," he reminds me. I admit: it's a source of pride for me in my practice. But the monstrous Ego has no place in a yoga class.
Last Friday I had an opportunity to flaunt my advantage in a Hot Flow class. The result? I woke up with an aching upper back on Sunday morning. I missed the Sunday morning yoga class because of the sore back; I had trouble getting out of bed.
Most people who have taken yoga are familiar with the Cobra pose - one of the foundations of the Sun Salutations. With legs firmly on the ground, we lift our chest up and forward, and look up. We do it all the time in class, and there are several variations on the Cobra.
One of the more advance variation on the Cobra is the King Cobra. Basically, you start in Cobra, then you reach your legs up towards your head to touch. Sounds easy but it's not. As it turns out, I am still not there yet - but I was close. How close? About an inch between my feet and my head.
It was a challenge, and I wanted to push my edge. One of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is ahimsa (non-violence.) To push yourself into injury is a form of violence, and a violation of the spirit of yoga. It was pride - pride in my backbends that made me strain my back trying to reach to touch my feet.
But I had to try. It has always been my weakness - pride, and a certain lack of restraint. I would do it again, I realise, because I couldn't bear not trying. I wouldn't be me, if I let it go.
But probably after my back stops aching. It will heal, because thank goodness, it's not the sharp, pulling pain that indicates something dangerous. I'm going to remember to take it easy on my back.
Pictures from the official website of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers.
In a miracle of cosmic synchronicity, minutes after I published this post, I found this article on the Yoga Journal website:
Harvey Deutch has been a physical therapist in San Francisco for 22 years ; during that time, he says, he's seen a lot of broken yogis, most of whom err on the side of overflexibility. For these people, the key to successful practice is to know what range of motion is normal for a joint and to not exceed it—even if they easily can. "We see these very flexible women in yoga classes who can flop into poses completely," he says. "Because their ligaments and soft tissues don't create a barrier, they can end up going way too far into a pose. And they run the risk of destroying their joints—and their spine in particular—in the process."I think the Universe is trying to tell me something.