Earlier today, I read with great interest Claudia's latest post about her Revelation Back-Bend Moment, and the comments to that post. Congratulations, Claudia, on finally feeling your inner thighs!
Btw, has it ever occurred to you what strange things we Ashtangis congratulate each other on? I mean, can you imagine what kind of reactions we would get from somebody who just happened to be listening in on "everyday Ashtanga conversation" in a public place? ("Hmm... what's there to congratulate about feeling your own inner thighs...?")
Actually, if you think about it a little more, you will realize that Ashtangis frequently say things to one another that will sound outright weird, maybe even a little risque, to somebody who is not in the Ashtanga "cult". Here's another example: One day, you run into a shala-mate on the street. This is the first time you have seen her outside the shala. And you say, "Wow, this is the first time I have seen you with clothes on!" Can you imagine the heads that will turn in a public place upon hearing this line? I think somebody needs to publish a collection of such conversations among Ashtangis: Conversations that would seem perfectly normal within the context of Ashtanga, but would be totally weird in any other setting. Perhaps such a book can be titled "21 Strange Things Ashtangis Say to One Another." I think this will sell like hot cakes. See, here's another way to make money in the Ashtanga world :-)
But all this is a big digression (I seem to be digressing a lot recently). I meant to write about backbends. So, let's get on topic. Claudia's post reminds me that backbends are a very powerful tool for getting to know one's own body better. I recently blogged about how I was recently able to find that elusive spot in my mid-back that needs to open. Along with that, I also discovered that hanging back with straight legs first rather than just dropping back right away has the effect of enabling me to feel my thighs and psoas more and engage them more in the action of backbending. In these ways, I feel that backbends are quite magical; they transform bodily knowledge that was previously only theoretical (in the sense that we theoretically know that we have inner thighs and mid-backs and psoases) into actual experiential knowledge: It is one thing to know theoretically that you have a mid-back or inner thighs, or even to be able to point them out on an anatomical diagram. It is quite another to be able to feel them working in their full intensity in your own body. Again, as Guruji would say: Yoga is 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory.