Practice this morning was nice. It's been unseasonably warm and humid for the past few days, so practice has been sweatier than usual. The warmth helps tremendously with the leg-behind-head sequence, so much that I've been making major headway this week in Eka Pada. Behold:
As you can see, I take my sweet time to come into the full expression. Yes, I lose some heat spending so much time on my back, but my knees and neck have thanked me warmly for the extra preparation. The reclining preparatory posture, which I found in Maehle's book, is an extremely effective warm-up not just for the hip opening, but also because it engages the abdominals and spinal extensors in the same way as the upright variation. Still, even after all of that prep work, I felt it necessary to secure my leg during the forward bend to protect my lumbar.
I don't know how you hardliners will feel about this, but for a while I was completely skipping Dwi Pada and spending double time in Yoganidrasana to help me get the hips open without hurting myself. However, lately, since Eka Pada is coming along so nicely, I've inserted a strength building Dwi Pada modification in which I work my knees up onto my shoulders and press my feet together in front of my face to simulate the high-pressure effect of the legs against the shoulders and neck as in the full expression. The modification is surprisingly difficult and I'm sort of sorry I haven't been doing it this way all along.
Yoganidrasana is feeling spacious. I've been reviewing drishte designations for 2nd series in Matthew Sweeney's book and was reminded that the drishte here is third eye. I think I've been gazing down the nose, but find that third eye is more energetically effective and feels better on my neck and back.
Intermediate has already done amazing things to the shape of my body, but one unforeseen development has been the change in the thickness of my neck. I might not have noticed except, the other day, I tried to wear a pretty little silver chain that, not so long ago, would have rested elegantly at the base of my neck to find it now fits almost like a choker, the chain rolling and twisting against my skin when I turn my head this way or that. It may not be the most alluring yoga side effect, but I'll take it if it means Dwi Pada.