It's been a while since I've begun a post this way, so I'm pleased to announce that yesterday's practice was damn good. Meditation began as a struggle... still working through some dark emotions... but rather than try to escape the struggle, I decided to face it head on. I meditated on my pain. I asked myself repeatedly, why am I in pain in this moment? I could not find an answer. All recognizable sources of my discomfort and grief were rooted in the past, and as we all know, the only thing to do with the past is to let it go. I emerged from this meditation feeling quite free and unburdened.
In the spirit of this liberation, I practiced a completely different type of standing sequence, deviating entirely from the usual Ashtanga-based structure. I enjoyed a nice warrior flow -- warrior I, warrior II, warrior II with a heart opener (hands clasped behind back), and then bowing down into humble warrior, a pose I almost never incorporate into my own practice, then inhaling back up to warrior I keeping the hands clasped behind the back, breathing fully into the chest. For a bit of grounding, I stayed for ten breaths in a long, steady tree pose, then moved from there into natarajasana for the obligatory glory moment.
On my way to the floor, I decided to try jumping into bakasana. As the most loyal of readers may recall, this is something I had been working on optimistically for a while, but never made any progress. At some point I became discouraged and decided to let it simmer on the back-burner. Yesterday, on a whim, I gave it another go. Success! I landed the jump into bakasana twice, and it felt entirely different than I remember. I think all the handstand practice I've been doing has helped me develop the "quick grab" muscle necessary to land the jump smoothly, not to mention the mental fortitude to refrain from freaking out and tipping over once the landing is made.
As for the technique, I found that envisioning myself jumping up, and then setting the knees down onto the arms for the landing leads to a much more stable pose than trying to simply jump forward onto the arms. Also, remembering to "grab" the upper arms with the knees by squeezing the inner thighs together helped me maintain the appropriate height in the hips, instead of bouncing down on the landing and then trying to lift back up, which always seems to result in a tumble.
The sudden success I experienced in my handstand practice while on vacation seems to have faded. It has always been my hope that one day everything would just click, and henceforth forever and ever the perfect handstand would be available to me. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. While my strength has obviously improved, particularly in the stabilizing action of the lower core, I'm still not able to consistently catch the handstand without tipping too far forward and bouncing a heel off the wall first. But it's happened before, and it will happen again, so that's good enough for now, I guess. What's that bit of wisdom? Oh yes... practice and all is coming.