Friday, June 14, 2013

Floating forward and hovering before touching down in Uttanasana, jumping through with straight legs (or not); upcoming interview with alt-rock musician Ife Sanchez Mora, and a call for technical assistance

Over the last few days, I have been playing and experimenting with some of the finer points of floating in the Surya Namaskaras. If you are not familiar with floating, here's a short video (complete with very powerful drumbeat) of David Robson demonstrating this technique:


Not to brag or anything, but I have actually been floating more or less successfully for the last year or so. What I've been working on over the last couple of weeks is to achieve that little movement where I hover with my legs more or less straight, with my feet hovering a couple of inches above the ground, just before I touch down in Uttanasana. If you need a visual of what I'm talking about, here's the Patron Saint of Home Ashtangis demonstrating this finer point of Surya Namaskara:    


Over the last week, I would say that I have been getting the hover about 7 or 8 times out of every 10 times I do the Surya Namaskaras. To be sure, there is something very aesthetically pleasing (not to mention ego-boosting) about being able to float and hover. The very first time I saw somebody float and hover was as a neophyte yoga teacher at the campus gym in Florida, where I went to grad school (for more details about my brief tenure as a yoga-teaching charlatan, see this post). One of my fellow yoga teachers at the time was this spindly guy who could float and hover effortlessly in Surya Namaskar "as if angels were lifting and moving his legs", as his girlfriend at the time would put it. And while I wasn't quite as devotionally awestruck by his floating abilities as his girlfriend was, I nevertheless couldn't help comparing it to my rather heavy-limbed movements in Surya Namaskar, and longing wistfully for the day when I myself would be able to float and hover so effortlessly, with or without angelic support. 

Well, I am happy to report that I am finally getting closer to that day, after all these years. But being able to float/hover isn't just about looking good or boosting one's ego. Being able to move so lightly demands refined control of the bandhas, breath and movement (in other words, the tristana, minus the drishti). Thus, I believe that the ability to float/hover is something that comes more or less naturally and organically as one attains more control and refinement in one's practice. So much so, that after a while, floating and hovering actually becomes easier than just flopping and throwing one's limbs around in the Suryas--or in the rest of the practice, for that matter. 

Besides floating and hovering, I've also been experimenting with the straight-legged jump-through (SLJT). As I've mentioned a couple of years ago, I've more or less settled into jumping through with cross-legs (CLJT) over the last couple of years. I think Sharath said somewhere that he always does CLJT, because that's the only way he's been taught. And I figured that if CLJT is good enough for Sharath, it's good enough for me. Case closed. 

But nevertheless, over the last few weeks, I've gotten curious about life on the SLJT side of the fence. What would it be like to be able to SLJT with perfect control? Well, here's Kino's model demonstrating this: 


As Kino points out at the beginning of the video, it is neither correct nor incorrect to jump through with straight legs or crossed legs: The important thing is to make it to the finish line, one way or the other. But I still can't help being curious about what life is like "on the other side". And besides, I was also thinking to myself: Now that I am finally getting close to being able to hover, surely some of that hovering ability would translate to being able to SLJT with better control (as opposed to the "sliding into base" kind of SLJT)? So during practice yesterday, I gave the SLJT a shot during the one of the first couple of postures in primary series. I bent my knees in downdog, took off... and landed on my feet! And then I had to awkwardly make myself sit down. It turns out that my body has been doing CLJT for so long, that the only way it knows how to jump forward with straight legs is to land in standing/Uttanasana! 

Oh well, maybe I'll have to find a way to "reprogram" my body/mind if I want to switch over to SLJT. Or maybe I'll just stick with CLJT. No harm done, one way or the other.

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On a different note, I'm presently in the process of putting together a Skype interview with alt-rock musician and fellow Nichiren Buddhist Ife Sanchez Mora. You know, the kind of Skype interview where both our faces appear side-by-side on screen as you watch the interview? I don't usually do interviews on this blog (the only person I've interviewed so far is Kino), but Ife, who also practices Bikram yoga, is a person who is so full of life and passion for her art, that I think it can only be a good thing to share her work here on this blog. To give you a taste of her work, here's a music video from her recently released album: 


Pretty freaking awesome, wouldn't you say? 

But there's a slight problem here: I have never done a Skype interview, nor do I have any experience with posting it on my blog (obviously). I know, I'm a bit deficient technology-wise. But I also know that at least some of you out there have experience with doing and posting Skype interviews. If you do, and wouldn't mind giving me some technical assistance in this area, please get in touch with me; you can find my email in the "Greetings" section of this blog, in the top-right-hand corner. I won't have much to offer you in the way of material reward, but you will at least have my eternal, eternal gratitude and over-whelming respect. So yeah, do give this a thought, if you happen to possess the requisite expertise.  

12 comments:

  1. Lino is the guy who got the whole floating thing going, back in the '90s. Now that you can float/hover, here's the next level -

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ELB0X8LGTE#t=01m20s

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    1. Very nice. But I'm not really big on handstanding; I have never ever really felt much of a desire to float up into handstand. But then again, I might change my mind tomorrow; I'll let you know when I do :-)

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    2. When you're hovering over uttanasana, you're handstanding. The only difference between that and vrksasana is the degree of hip extension. (In ashtanga vinyasa the correct name for handstand is vrksasana.) Same with the floaty straight-leg jump throughs, it's in the degree of shoulder extension.

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    3. Yes, I do know that hovering is technically handstanding, minus the balancing that is needed in order to balance with your feet directly over your shoulders. Now, isn't the correct name for handstand Adho Mukha Vrksasana, to differentiate it from tree pose?

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    4. In Iyengar it's adho mukha vrksasana, in Ashtanga it's vrksasana

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  2. Try it blindfolded Noble : )
    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/how-to-do-straight-leg-jump-through.html
    excellent video of John Scott doing it blindfolded too on the final video 2 minutes in.

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    1. Nice, Grimmly. The idea of blindfolding and removing visual obstacles to movement is very intriguing. But I'm really not sure if I'm quite willing to do it blindfolded just yet; not sure why. Maybe it feels too much like ninja training or something...

      John Scott has a really beautiful upward dog. I've never seen anything like it before.

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  3. I was obsessed with learning how to do this. Arm balances come fairly easy to me and I think I was *close* then, BAM!, sprained toe. It's very unclear to me why this has been a nearly impossible feat in my 12 years of practice but it still confounds me.

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    1. Very sorry to hear about your sprained toe, Heather. Hope it gets better soon. On the upside, maybe working with an injured might make you lift higher (to avoid toe contact with the mat) and might actually help you to get the float/hover sooner...

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    2. Oh it's all good now! But I abandoned the project :(

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