“Stop fidgeting.” My teacher’s instructions were clear and succinct. But it’s hard. The body likes to move. The mind likes to move. The mind likes to move the body. The body likes to move the mind. But…can I? Can you? Can you stop fidgeting?
When we can stop fidgeting, the stillness that comes (or doesn’t come) is calming. It’s like returning home. Our house might slowly be coming into order…there might be dishes, laundry, chores, or tidying…but if there’s a sense of stillness, maybe even silence, then the sweetness of home still lingers. A place where we can drop pretension, guise, or even simply extroverted energy. A place where we can retreat, maybe drop into a familiar place, and simply be for a while. Stop fidgeting. Even if for the briefest of moments.
This backbend helps me drop into stillness. Sure, sometimes I’ll use the time to play catch-up on Facebook or Pinterest or email. I can’t always stop my multitasking tendencies (Open spine. Check. Reply to emails. Check. Do it at the same time? Woohoo.). But, eight times out of ten, this backbend helps me move beyond the chatter of the day and into the deepest, stillest waters of myself. My hope is that it’ll take you there, too.
Week Two: Supported Backbend with a Bolster
Admittedly this posture is great if you already have a bolster. If you don’t, improvise. Grab your firmest pillows or fold your stiffest blankets. Find a way to create a thick, fairly stable and firm bolster over which you’ll drape your body.
- Sit on your bum, knees bent, and settle the short edge of the bolster against your sacrum. (Your sacrum is the triangular bit of bone right where your spine runs into your pelvis.)
- Using your hands and core, walk your torso backwards to bring your back onto the bolster. If you are pregnant or merely prefer it, come onto your side first and then roll onto the bolster.
- Place your arms where they feel most comfortable: in cactus arms, out like a “T,” alongside your ears, on your tummy, or alongside your body. Feel free to place more padding underneath your arms if there is a considerable distance between the floor and your upper arm bones.
- Notice how your spine feels. If you are feeling strong sensations – sharp, stabbing sensations or tingly sensations – then come out of it. Reduce the degree of backbend by bringing a blanket (or two) underneath your bum. Play until you find a backbend that feels comfortable.
- Place your legs where they feel comfortable. Do they feel better bent, straight, or some other way? However you place your legs, keep your spine happy.
- You should be able to sustain this backbend for a while. If not, then reconfigure until you can. If you are new to backbends, set a timer for one to three minutes. Gradually increase the time. More experienced yogis might hang here for a longer amount of time.
- As you rest, watch your breath. Follow your breath’s path from the opening at the nostrils, down the trachea, and into your lungs. Feel your lungs expand as you inhale and soften as you exhale. Envision how your lungs surround and support your heart. See if you can encourage your inhalations to match your exhalations (a 3-count or a 4-count breath, for instance). If you feel comfortable creating an even breath then play with making your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation. Notice the slight pause at the end of each exhalation before it transforms into an inhalation. Start to draw this stillness – this pause – into your heart.