Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cockatiels, Ashtangi butts, and backbend energy; some thoughts about splitting incrementally

This morning, my fiancee let the cockatiels out of their cage before she left for work, giving them free rein to fly and wander all around the apartment. Which means they were out and about while I was doing my practice. Personally, I still don't think it is a good idea to let them run/fly around while I am practicing; perhaps I need to go do some research about the statistics of yoga-related bird fatalities caused by bird owners stepping on or landing on their birds while doing yoga. Anybody know any reliable sources of such information out there? 

Fortunately, nothing happened to them this morning. Throughout my practice, I tried my best to maintain a "bird-radar" around me, so that at any given moment, I have a general sense of where the birds are in the apartment. Probably not very good for my drishti, I would think, since half my attention is always on pinpointing the spatial location of the birds.

But my "bird-radar" must have worked, because nothing untoward happened to the birds. In fact, a couple of interesting and possibly Youtube-worthy moments happened; at least, I think they would have been very interesting to watch on video if somebody was around with a video-camera, and had filmed them.  One such moment happened when I was in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana on the second side. I had just finished my five breaths, and was about to exit the pose when I felt a tiny pair of claws digging into my butt. Based on my general sense of where the birds were, I knew that Thelma, the grey cockatiel, had landed on my butt.

Can you picture a cockatiel perched on his butt? (Sorry, Arjuna, no offense...)

Anyway, since she had landed there, I decided to play along and see how long I could keep her there without scaring her away (birds, as you probably know, are easily startled by sudden movements). So I slowly straightened up to a standing position with my left leg still in half-lotus. She stayed attached to my butt. Then I slowly released the left leg back into Samasthithi. Then ekam, dwi. She still remained perched on my butt; birds, as you might know, have an impressive ability to perch on vertical surfaces, including the (clothed) butts of Ashtangis.

I then lifted my feet off the ground into trini position. She was still attached. Damn! Either my movements are so steady that even cockatiels can perch on my butt and fall asleep while I lift up from Uttanasana, or cockatiels have amazing presence of mind (or both). It could also be, of course, that these cockatiels are special beings sent to Earth by Patanjali to test my yogic powers (for more details on this possibility, see my previous cockatiel post). Well, well, I thought, let's see what happens when I float back into chatvari. Well, I didn't have so much luck with chatvari: The moment my feet impacted the ground in chaturanga, she flew away. I guess I need to work on a softer landing :-) Better luck next time...

The other thing I noticed is that birds seem to be attracted to the energy of backbends. When I got into Kapotasana, the birds flew down from their perch, and started walking around near my Mysore rug (I'm glad they didn't try to land on me in that posture...). When I was doing my dropbacks and standups, the same thing happened. I seem to remember reading somewhere (it might have been Eckhart Tolle, but I can't be certain about this) that birds are much more pure energy beings than us human beings, that there is a higher proportion of pure energy relative to dense matter in their beings than ours. Which probably explains why they have less dense bones and can fly, and why they can sense things like impending earthquakes...

Anyway, I'm totally out of my depth here, so I won't say more about this. But could it be that we become more... birdlike when we do backbends, that somehow, backbends tend to increase the amount of pure energy in our beings relative to dense matter? Just wondering. Anyway, if this is true, then perhaps success in backbends can be measured by how "birdlike" we become while backbending? Perhaps shalas should start keeping birds in them, birds which would serve as "canaries in the mines" to indicate the level of pure energy that the practitioners' backbending practices have generated in the environment? Just a thought: Don't take this too seriously.


On a different note, I have recently been toying with the idea of possibly splitting my practice again. But I am thinking of taking a different approach this time. Instead of simply dropping primary altogether and doing second only, I'm thinking about doing it in a much more incremental and gradual manner.

Here's what I have in mind. Right now, I am doing full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana on a daily basis. What I'm thinking about doing is to add one or two more second series posture onto this practice at a time, while at the same time dropping one or two primary series postures. So for example, I might add Ekapada Sirsasana, and drop Setubandhasana. If this works out, then after a few days, I will add Dwipada Sirsana and Yoganidrasana (it seems to make sense to add these two postures together, since they basically involve the same action), while dropping Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. And so on so forth, until I get up to Karandavasna, which was the last pose that both Kino and PJ Heffernan gave me.

Anyway, this is what I'm thinking. I'm thinking that this may just be a better way to split for me; the last couple of times I tried splitting, I basically did it the traditional way: Drop primary altogether, and do second only. Things went quite well for a few weeks, then I injured something. Yeah, both times. So maybe a more gradual/incremental approach would work better for me. Anyway, I'm not going to do this right away. I'll give myself a couple more weeks, and wait for my shoulders to regain their full strength (my strained trapezius insertion from a few weeks ago is healing very well, but it's not quite back to pre-injury strength yet. So better to wait a little more.). In the meantime, if any of you guys have anything to share (feedback, suggestions, advice, etc.), I'll love to hear from you.      


  1. Morning Bird-Man:) That is so sweet, birds are awesome creatures. It's always an interesting thing , when one is primarily a solitary practitioner we really have to be honest and up front with our practice and the capacity of our bodies. It's really a treat when we get to study with teachers and they advance our practice, but then we have no help in refining those asanas except by a lot of trial and error with some glimmers of light:) Ya know? how do you know/learn to do it if you don't try? I have split my practice. I practice Primary up to Baddha Konasana then on through Yoga Nidrasana and some flirting with Pincha:)) I practice Primary in a guided class once per week and the rest is my split practice. Do what you feel Nobel, afterall it is your practice. be nice to your knees and low back:)

    1. Your split practice sounds like a good way to go. Sharath said in his recent conference that most people are not open enough in their bodies to split completely (i.e. do second only); they still need to do some primary. Which is what gave me the idea of splitting gradually/incrementally rather than dropping primary all at one go. I'll give it a try in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the encouragement :-)

  2. I think splitting incrementally sounds smart. I can relate to your post. I've taken some steps back after diving in too quickly, I think. Well, first I didn't really care to learn much of Second even though I had the green light, and only did the three kneeling backbends as an add on to Primary for many months. Then I just dove in to Second head first and practically abandoned Primary. After a couple of months of that, I could see it really wasn't the right move on many fronts. I didn't feel good. I'm still working on Second, but I've dialed it back and don't try to practice as much of it as before. Also, I've been doing a handful of Primary series poses before starting, particularly the Marichyasanas. It would seem I can't practice those enough. I have always had a hard time with my shoulders and they help me get ready. I know it's a bit unorthodox, but hey...that is the beauty of a home practice.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Kristen. I think being a bit unorthodox is good; my sense is that the fixed sequence of the practice is there to provide us with boundaries to work with, and we try to adhere to the sequence as much as possible, but perhaps sometimes we need to get outside the sequence a little to explore stuff, so that we can get back in more comfortably later. At least, that's how I see it.

      I read your latest post about your practices with Louise. It's great that you get to practice with your teacher again :-)

    2. Thanks, Nobel. I agree with you. And you were right earlier this year about doing all those arm balances - it ended up getting in my way a bit. But, I was feeling the need to do exactly what you describe here - explore stuff - and it helped me to see the way back. Take care. Kristen