What does seem to make a difference, though, is the quality of the breath. I have noticed that on days when I am successful in grabbing both ankles and holding them for five breaths (like today), the quality of the breath is different. Different in what way? Well, for the last couple of weeks, whenever I walk my hands to the feet to get into Chakrabandhasana after the third drop-back, I always try to imagine my breath being the anchor that anchors my hands to the ankles: The deeper and more steady the breath, the more stable it will be as the anchor that "roots" the hands to the ankles. Conversely, the more shallow and hurried the breath is, the more likely it is that the body will be "swept up" back to the surface (i.e. back into standing) by the "currents". I'm not sure if this image of anchoring the body in the backbend makes sense to you, but don't you think that backbending is a little bit like deep-sea diving; after all, we do speak of deep backbends, don't we? :-)
A couple of weeks ago, after reading about the pain-body issues that were so clearly manifested in my pity-party post about the prospect of going to Singapore (yeah, I really have issues), Claudia sent me a copy of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. It's been a very interesting and fascinating read so far (thank you, Claudia!). I would like to share the following passage from the book:
"Form means limitation. We are here not only to experience limitation, but also to grow in consciousness by going beyond limitation. Some limitations can be overcome on an external level. There may be other limitations in your life that you have to learn to live with. They can only be overcome internally. Everyone will encounter them sooner or later. Those limitations either keep you trapped in egoic reaction, which means intense unhappiness, or you rise above them internally by uncompromising surrender to what is. That is what they are here to teach. The surrendered state of consciousness opens up the vertical dimension in your life, the dimension of depth. Something will then come forth from that dimension into this world, something of infinite value that otherwise would have remained unmanifested. Some people who surrendered to severe limitation become healers or spiritual teachers. Others work selflessly to lessen human suffering or bring forth some creative gift into this world."
Citing an example of overcoming severe limitation through uncompromising surrender, Tolle relates his meeting with world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Hawking is widely regarded to be the world's leading theoretical physicist; as you also probably know, he has motor neurone disease and is almost completely paralyzed, and can only speak with the help of a voice synthesizer. Tolle describes his meeting with Hawking thus:
"...when I held the door open for his electric wheelchair to come through, our eyes met. With surprise I saw that his eyes were clear. There was no trace of unhappiness. I knew immediately that he had relinquished resistance; he was living in surrender."
[Image taken from here]
Hawking's life is a compelling testament to the power of complete and utter surrender: It is only through total surrender that he was able to cease identifying with his physical limitation and allowing it to cause him suffering. It was this surrender that freed his being, allowing him to dig deeper into himself and do the wonderful work that he is today renowned for...
Well, I guess I better stop here. It seems almost trite and trivializing for somebody like me to go on and on like this about such a powerful soul. I guess you get the picture. I am also guessing that you see how all this applies to our practice and life. There are many limitations in life that can be overcome externally (such as, for instance, overcoming whatever it was in my breath and muscles that prevented me from getting Chakrabandhasana). And that's wonderful. But very often, we get so used to the idea that limitations are to be overcome externally, that we forget that certain other limitations are such that the only way to overcome them is to live with them and surrender to them: If we try to overcome them externally, we will only be banging our proverbial heads against the wall and creating unnecessary suffering for ourselves and others (hmm... is my present inability to get to Mysore one such limitation? I wonder...). There are times when the only way out is in.
In other news: It appears that somebody has nominated this blog for this thing called the 2012 Fascination Awards, under the category of Yoga Teacher. Which is, strictly speaking, an undeserved nomination, since I am not at present an active yoga teacher (for more details about my, ahem, misadventures in this area, see this post).
But I'm not one to quibble over the deservedness of nominations, especially when they involve me or my blog (ego...), so I will gladly accept this nomination. To whoever out there who has nominated this blog: If you want to change your mind now and withdraw this nomination, I'm cool with that too :-)
Anyway, here are a few more details about this nomination. Apparently, the article that earned me this nomination was a post I wrote more than a year ago titled "Health At Every Size...seriously?", in which I totally lamblasted what I believe to be the socially and scientifically irresponsible Health At Every Size (HAES) movement. I still feel the same way about the HAES movement, but honestly, I'm not particularly proud of that post. To me, it feels that all I succeeded in doing was stir up a whole bunch of shit without really changing anybody's mind: Which, to me, is the quintessence of blogging from a place of ego. But, well, I was a relatively inexperienced blogger at that time. But having said that, I still accept the nomination anyway. Why? Because I don't get too many honors like that coming my way, so I have to grab them when I do get them :-)
Anyway, voting for the award begins June 11th at 12:01 AM (EST). If you feel so inclined to vote for this blog, please click on the "Vote for Me" icon on the right hand side of this blog. And what do you get in return for voting for me? Well, nothing, except my love and gratitude and (hopefully) many more years of faithful blogging on my part :-) Damn, I need to get better at making campaign promises; at this rate, I'll never make it as a politician...