Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Balance and Back Bends in Yoga

Today, after more than a year, I resumed my back bends in Yoga. The spine protested silently and strongly! I felt mildly dizzy and clutched on to my teacher for a few moments, to recover my balance. Immediately afterwards though, there was a feeling of tremendous satisfaction. Back bends are intrinsically invigorating - perhaps it is the nature of the movement, perhaps it is because the mind is compelled to be still while directing such an unusual posture. Back bends also take up a lot of energy, hence they are usually done after the body is thoroughly warmed up and just before winding down the practice.

At this time, I think of the yoga teacher Shri B.K.S. Iyengar, who possesses an amazing level of control and balance and a very supple spine. There is an old 1938 video recording of his, which has now been uploaded on youtube (showing the style that he learnt from his teacher Shri Krishnamachary. Later Iyengar modified this style and formed his own school of 'Iyengar yoga').


This is an interesting film snippet as it shows the vast range of movements that can be done through back bends. It also depicts the lightness and balance that comes only to some, after long hours of practice. The role of physical strength is often overestimated in these postures. Knowing how to breathe, apply internal muscular locks (bandhas) and distribute one's weight at each step is what contributes to the equilibrium attained; this is the ultimate aim of yogasanas (yogic postures). To do this almost effortlessly, as Iyengar appears to, is rare and wonderful to watch.

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