First Drop Backs

It's been an interesting day.  I had to work an extra shift last night because of the holiday weekend, so I was at the restaurant all night and woke up later than I would have liked this afternoon.  After the obligatory coffee and blog reading, I had about an hour for my practice before jumping in the shower and heading off to teach my Sunday class at Love Yoga.  As I am wont to do when pressed for time, I defaulted to my favorite essential practice:  20 minutes of pranayama, 10 minutes of meditation, 5 Surya As, 5 Surya Bs, 5 minutes in headstand, and Savasana.  It was just right.

I arrived at Love Yoga energized and ready to teach.  I set up my mat, turned on the heat (78 degrees, people.  Not 100), and waited for the students to arrive.  And I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

Nothing.  Nobody.  Not one student showed up.  This has happened before, unfortunately, but I've handled it well.  I knew from the beginning that empty classes can be part of the job, especially when first starting out.  In the past, I've used the time to play with the props, working on floating, restorative postures, and other such fun.  But this time it got to me.  In the quiet, candlelit room, I realized that this was the first time I've wanted to pray in any way, shape, or form in a very long time.

I laid on my mat for a while, feeling sorry for myself.  Then I picked myself up, dragged the Manduka to the middle of the room, and grabbed a cushion.  I sat in meditation.  I listened to sound of the breath.  I felt it as an expression of my desire to serve in this place.  Then I felt it grow, expand, and begin to move beyond myself.  I honed the tone and sent the breath to every inch and corner of the room, filling it with my offering.  Then I locked up and went home.

I had homework to do, so naturally I managed to procrastinate in a variety of ways.  I made a sandwich, ran to the store, checked the blog stats, and tidied the kitchen.  Then I happened upon this helpful post by David Garrigues, who offers up some mighty fine instruction on his blog from time to time, with a couple of brief video tutorials on drop backs.  He talked about the effects of various arm positions, and the actions of lifting the chest, pushing the hips forward, and pressing the thighs back.  Then I thought, I had a light practice today.  Why not?  I've been working with hang backs in Ustrasana for the past couple of months, which feels amazing.  And sometimes in Urdhva Dhanurasana when walking my hands in I feel the weight shift into my feet and my upper body becomes light, so I guess I've been preparing for it in my own way.  I rolled out my mat by the wall and, after plenty of warming up, practiced my first drop backs.  I was pleased with the practice, even though I have no frame of reference, which is kind of nice.  This way, I can just allow things to progress without expectation.

I laid a couple of floor pillows down flush with the wall in case of a crash landing since I wasn't sure what to expect, then I set up, "stamped" through the inner edges of the feet, as Garrigues puts it, lifted the chest and began to curl back.  I tried dropping back and standing up about ten times.  My hands made it to the wall about a foot and a half from the floor, then I'd walk them down a little ways toward the cushions, looking for the edge of sensation, then rock once and stand up.  A couple of times I made it all the way up without using the wall, but most of the time needed a second push to come up to standing.  The only thing I found really confusing about the experience was when to begin bending the knees more.  It felt like the point at which I bent the knees was the same moment that I literally "dropped" that last little bit to the wall.  If I prolong bending the knees, will I be able to drop back further?  Or should I bend the knees sooner to create more of a bow shape before letting the hands fall?  Either way, I'm sure I need to spend some more time opening the shoulders if I want to take this further.

And now I can't sleep.  So it's true what they say about post-backbend insomnia...  It's nearly 4 AM.  That's a couple of hours past my bedtime, and I'm still buzzed from the backbends.  Oops.


  1. I usually get this in my feedreader so this is my first time checking out your new look! It looks damn good, I think. ;)

    Drop backs are one of those exhilarating gymnastic add-ons to yoga that I both love and try hard not to aspire to, if you know what I mean.

    I practice dropping back and coming back up with the help of a friend, who stands in front of me and places their hands around my hips. This gives me that little bit of extra support to play with! Also, my teacher taught us when dropping back to keep the hands in prayer pose until the last moment when the hands extend and you drop to the floor. I like it this way because it makes me feel nice and secure hanging in my backbend before I think about the floor. But I don't think this would work with the wall!

    Backbends are so energising... much better for a morning practice lol!

  2. Wow, nice blog, and good work with the drop backs.

    It was interesting to read your thoughts on the no-show class. There are so many reasons why I occasionally miss classes, and the reasons never have anything to do with my teachers. Still, as a teacher trainee I often wonder how I'll feel when I'm in the situation you found yourself in today. I love that, with meditation, you turned it into an opportunity. :-)

  3. La Gitane - Thank you :)

    And yes, I think I do know what you mean. It's not important, and yet... I'd like to be able to do it. Also, as I learned last night, it feels pretty amazing. My back felt incredibly alive. After the drop backs/stand ups I practiced some twisting and found that my whole torso was much more pliable than usual.

    Brigid - The night I taught my first class, I received some excellent advice about how to deal with no-shows and walk outs: "take nothing personally. Good or bad."

    It's harder than it sounds, to be sure, but as teachers, we are merely facilitators to the students' experience. The state in which 'real yoga' occurs cannot be taught, it must be found.

  4. If it helps, last week I went to my yoga practice and no other students came. So, I was alone with the teacher and she didn't teach me because I was alone. I didn't practice on that week, what was stupid. I'm still trying to get rid of the invisibility complex and get a lesson from this experience (new teacher? modesty and hard work alone? a proof of my will and determination with yoga?) maybe all that together. Well, sometimes techaers miss the lesson too. Namaste.

  5. Anon - I'm sorry you had such an experience with someone who is supposed to guide you in the practice. I am appalled that your teacher refused to teach you just because you were the only student. He/she should have been grateful for the opportunity to give you a special, focused practice. A new teacher, perhaps, or maybe it's a sign for you to take the reins and start a home practice to rebuild your confidence. Something to think about...

  6. Thank you, it helps to have a teacher's perspective. I started to practice again at home, because it really gives me joy, and I get stiff and achy if I don't. But I'm a complete beginner so I will have to make my decision. I try not to be so hard with the teacher.I'll see after holyday what happens.