Thursday, August 30, 2012

That sweet, delicious burning sensation in backbends; Yoga Blog Award

Practice this morning was very nice and refreshing. Especially the backbends. After dropping back and coming back up three times, I succeeded in grabbing my heels in Chakrabandhasana for about two breaths. And then I tipped my center of gravity a little too far back, lost my balance, came down onto my forearms, and ended up in this position:

 You probably already know this, but this is Mr. Iyengar in this position, not me.  By the way, I think the Iyengar folks call this pose Chakrabandhasana instead of the version with the forearms off the ground. Oh anyway... what's in a name?
[Image taken from here]

Bummer. It would have been nice to have been able to stay in Chakrabandhasana for the full five breaths. But I was happy anyway, not least because the whole time I was in the backbend (and earlier on, in Kapotasana as well) I could feel that sweet, delicious burning sensation in the quads and psoas, the sensation that tells me that I am really engaging those muscles. 

Ever since I started paying more attention to the even distribution of weight between the inner and outer feet, and to really extending and lifting the spinal vertebrae out of the pelvis (see this post for more details), I have been feeling the burning sensation in the front body more intensely. It's a very sweet and delicious sensation. Really. I think it's only in Ashtanga (and maybe in certain body-building circles too, but I can't be certain of this, as I'm not into body-building...) that people would think of describing a burning sensation as "sweet and delicious". But it really is sweet and delicious. Besides, would you rather have a burning sensation in some other part of your body, like, say, when you're urinating? (Need I say more?)

In fact, my fascination with this sweet and delicious burning sensation in backbends has grown to the point where this sensation is seriously competing with depth as the thing that I most look forward to in my backbend practice. Do I value getting deeply into the backbend more, or I do value this sweet burning sensation more? I don't know, actually. But really, this is probably an academic question, because the two are actually very closely related: The more your quads and psoas burn, the more you are engaging them. Which also means that, all other things being equal, your backbend is much more likely to be deeper. So getting deep and getting burnt are virtually two sides of the same coin, if you think about it this way. So yes, get deeply, deeply burnt :-)


Earlier today, Yoga in the Dragon's Den was honored with another blog award: The Institute for the Psychology of Eating has named this blog one of the Top 100 Yoga Blogs of 2012. To see what other of your favorite yoga blogs are on this list--I see that Grimmly, Claudia and Christine have also been similarly honored--check out this website.

What more should I say here? I suppose I should probably make an acceptance speech here (you know, thank my father and my mother and everybody else that has ever existed for making this possible...), but I just don't have the energy right now. I guess I'll just say this: Many thanks to all of you who have read and are continuing to read and/or comment on this blog, giving me the motivation to keep writing, whether or not there is light at the end of the tunnel (I hope there is...). I'm very honored that people would care enough about the random ramblings of an Ashtanga Fundamentalist to read, comment on, and even honor his writings. Namaste. Lokaha Samasthaha Sukhino Bhavantu.       


  1. Ha ha ha, acceptance speech, sweet.

    I am with you that perhaps yogis are the only ones to describe it as sweet delicious pain. I love the feeling of burning in the front of the body, it is a new one to me, since Laghu Vajrasana, and a very interesting one. I never thought I would feel that... and now I do

    Is that really Iyengar and not you in the photo? I had to look again! Tee hee

    1. Yes, isn't that sensation in Laghu a sweet delicious one?

      Congrats on your getting the blog award too :-)

  2. This is my first reply to a Yoga related blog, I must confess. I was patrolling the internet for a Yogi with a dissenting voice regarding whether Yoga back bends are necessary or even beneficial. My own experience was a slow but sure "ouch". I then became acquainted with the Chinese (or Taoist) healing (or martial) arts which have virtually no back bending positions at all, although they do have forward bends in the warm up section. Then I met a teacher, Simon Borg-Olivier, who trained in Ashtanga Vinyasa with Patbhi Jois and mentioned that the primary series had very few back bends, but rather was mainly comprised of forward bends. Simon does give very helpful instruction on how to backbend more safely and effectively. Some of this advice is similar to yours as mentioned above. Nevertheless, Simon recommends backbends be performed sparingly and his own demonstrations seem to have less of them than they did in the past. Tell me Nobel, what are the backbends included in primary series? And tell me your thoughts on my controversial idea that a Yoga practice could be complete with no more of a backbend than that seen in that observed in the photo of krishnamacharya performing Urdhvamukhasvanasana on page 67 of Yoga Makaranda (1935). By the wa my website is Kind regards, Ben Gaffney