My first unassisted dropback — YIKES!

I went to mysore today, after an internal struggle about whether to go surfing or not. The winds were calm in the morning and the swell reports indicated a new SSW coming our way today…but recently, in the past 1-2 months, yoga has won over surfing. Not really sure why…except, perhaps on an unconscious level, I knew that if I did not go to mysore, I would not have tried the drop-back…

I’ve been prepping my mind for it in the last couple of weeks…I had just completed the Primary Series a few weeks ago, and begun working with assisted dropbacks which left my back quite sore. I have lower back injury many years ago from surfing, and the back bends really scared me about re-injury. Then, earlier this month, when I attended the 2-week workshop with Saraswathi at my yoga shala, Saraswathi asked me if I was ready to drop back. I stared at her quite stunned. I had only been doing this whole Ashtanga thing for 6 months; I have tried other forms of yoga before, but really fell in love with Ashtanga and have been coming nearly everyday for my little yoga fix. Still, to do an unassisted dropback felt too frightening. I shook my head, and said, “No, that’s too much.” I can’t tell if she had a look of annoyance or disappointment, but I wondered afterwards, Well, should I try it?

My teachers Andrew and David told me to take my time, that slowly, the posture will come to you. What’s the rush, anyway? I could just take my time and enjoy the process…But then I thought…what if I really did it? What would that mean? It won’t make me rich, famous, or instantaneously enlightened. I probably wouldn’t even be ready to start the second series…although I must admit that I am quite curious about it. But, I figured, if I have to do an unassisted back bend eventually anyway, I might as well start getting acquainted with it.

I’ve been practicing at home, first with the bed, then with a cushion on the floor. I read somewhere that backbending conquers fear, while forward bends bring down the ego. I must say that, landing on my hands on the mattress and seeing the world upside down — and surviving! — adds a newer perspective to things, internally and externally. Maybe I can trust my body…and trust myself, perhaps?

Today I felt a rush of bravery. There was an urge to go for it, to take this opportunity or lose it forever. Andrew came over after I finished the first three back bends on the mat. He was about to assist when I asked him if I could give it a try on my own. He looked a little surprised at first, but then smiled and nodded, “Of course.”

I start arching back, trying to engage the bandhas in the abdomen and pelvis, coordinating the breath in as I slowly bring my hands over my head. So much to remember and coordinate! Somewhere, my lower lumbar is beginning to protest. The world begins to careen upside-down, I stretch my arms as close as I can to the floor…there was a moment of intensity, a great pause before I let the fear go, took a mental leap of faith, and gave that final push toward the floor.

I landed hard on my hands and a loud “OOOOF!” escaped my lips. I couldn’t help laughing — partly because I did it, (image of little girl jumping down up and down, I did it! I did it! Yay!) and partly because it seemed so ridiculously funny. Here we all were, silently and seriously stretching through our asanas, and I nearly crash into the floor with my hands with a sound that resembled a bellowing fart. The girl next to me laughed and even Andrew chuckled a bit. I didn’t mind. Inside, I truly felt like a ujjai breath — victorious!!

Now, the trick is whether I can get back up unassisted. Still working on that part.

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