Gratuitous PDA • 8 April 2008

I once attended a yoga class in Billings, Montana. Three students total: me, my brother, and the Editor. The instructor, who advised that the ultimate goal of asana was to scratch your third eye with your big toe in a seated forward bend, enthused about ashtanga yoga:

Is that the yoga where you pull all the power moves? 

The boys snickered. Nodded to each other as they implicitly incorporated "power move" as a regular term of abuse for the yoga.

Um. You must be thinking of "power yoga." Ashtanga's more contemplative.

Understated. Dignified.

Power moves pshaw.

So… I'm finally going to answer those questions about the power move now. Atha yoga ekapadabakasanam. You probably want to stop reading now.

The one-legged crow has this reputation as the hardest posture, in a sense. It’s the last in my programme and I pull it off, in terms of correct vinyasa, maybe one day in two. To the degree that I can’t do it, I guess I can talk out of my ass about it. Some day, when I incorporate eka pada bakasana, the words might disappear back up my ass again.

So! Before it is too late! EPBbullets. I honestly hope they are helpful for any connoisseurs of the power moves. It requires all my force of concentration to write explicitly about asana without going narcoleptic, so here goes.

● It’s just a combination of the previous two postures. No big deal. End of post.

● Well…, if EPB is not a big deal it’s only because the previous two postures once were. It took me the better part of a YEAR to make UKKB and even now my method is a slow 1-2 left- knee- then- right- and there’s not much lift on the exit. Entering EPB without a solid daily triplet of the UKK up-chickens would have been impossible. You could do planche training instead, but behold: careful with that shit. Mental injuries likely.

● Speaking of the triple-chicken, I ate eggs last month for the first time in a half-decade: apparently the bird poses like eggs (despite my reservations about the idea of fried embryo). Or better: if you are going to make birds, you might have to hatchet a few eggs.

● First time I did EPB I thought: Hello, my cranium is a medicine ball.

● At first I practiced more a hybrid of galava and baka (and still do this many days), with the bent leg’s calf listing in to center like a lazy rudder. That’s cool as far as I care, and delays a new cycle of tricep bruises as that calf comes in to parallel with the forearm.

Not to use stupid anusara-speak, but eventually the calf spirals back out and the shoulders accordingly lift, back leg electrifies like a damn lightning rod, and accordingly the whole core lights up. Key in my case is to lift the shoulders like in headstand and feel a sort of broadness across the clavicle; others with less of a medicine ball for a cranium might be more focused on working the straight leg. There is a light socket somewhere up there behind you and once you plug your toes straight in to it, you won’t have to tax your shoulders until you feel like Atlas sustaining the weight of the world.

● About those tricep bruises. Make friends with the patella and raise it toward the thigh to increase the surface area of knee-tricep contact. No duh, but I’m still working on this.

● If the knee wobbles on the back of the tricep and just won’t stay, I can only deduce that the solution is to reduce pressure on the tricep. Either by shifting weight into the hands, or sucking the knee up by some act of bandha derring-do. Yes that second instruction is an insult to Newtonian physics.

● The excessiveness of my verbal-ness here corresponds to a severe kinesthetic dopeyness. I may be able to read emotion/tension in a body, but have to work hard to understand mechanics. Nevertheless I guess the overall posture is dependent on the relative size of your head to the weight of your leg: I have a normal head (no, it’s true) but ridiculously short legs relative to a spaced-out spine. Thus without a counterbalance in the form of long legs there is a tendency to hold the head with the traps rather than with the core and back muscles.

This tendency is not beneficial.

● Also, the very possibility of EPB has something to do with the weight in the hips and ass: men and small-ass women might not understand the level of hardcore to which we curvier girls rise. Props to the curvy girls in third, right here. Talk to me, girls.

● In a room where play is kosher: I love to come in to EPB from a tight straight-arm bakasana. There’s a lightness in the easy-entry and a possibility of keeping the arms more straight. The lungs have more space and breath comes more softly. For me, this charts the territory to come, since the true entry is still effortful in the shoulders and my elbows remain far from straight. Apparently, there’s a freedom in the full expression that will take me a lot more practice to find.

● EPB lets me know just how much juice I have left. [I practice all of 2nd and third to EPB 4 if not 5 days a week (stop your fingerpointing, my sweet loves; I couldn't care less for your critiques of this programme)—and this is not a big deal, at all, because I’ve built slowly—see below.]

● Having this as my last posture is such a nice practice. For me the only program as wonderful was finishing at karandava with no split. In both cases the crazy bandha stuff and the lift just before backbends creates a chain of strong alternating sensation. Too, long practice makes me follow a stricter vinyasa and eliminates the tendency to pause, fiddle and perfect throughout—because it’s stipulated that I will finish in under 2 hours.

If the strict vinyasa count that a long programme requires ravages your nervous system, then many experienced teachers will say you need to “build strength.” (If it takes your muscles longer to recover between practices, maybe that is a different deal entirely.) I’m still very much engaged with the second series, in which building strength refers not to muscle mass but to nadi stamina: it’s got to do with refining the nervous system, dig?

● For me, these postures are so much about using the subtle body and electric body-loops momentarily to defy gravity. So, the engagement of the nervous system and subtle body have NOT changed for me now that most of my energy is going in to third rather than second. Nadi shodana in the broad sense forges nadi stamina: and even more than muscle, this—the “secret” of second—is the source I am tapping for the EPB. Maybe that’s just me? Overall it's been observed by the experts that third can bring up a hard-chiseled brutishtess in us. I think this happens if we move from sheer upper body musculature and raw determination… but to see the suave feather touch of some women and men who are long-term adepts (yes, out there: you know who you are) makes me guess there is another, higher path through these woods.

That's all I got. This is a coarse dredging from an eka pada bakasana hack, so any refinements or parentheses, complementary experiences, questions and the like are most welcome.