Still More PDA • 23 May 2008

Its feels almost too late to write about EPB. I am through the figuring-it-out phase during which new sensations stand out against an empty background of non-experience, in which the mind works through things because the body lacks the knowledge.

Tacit knowledge has sort of taken over.

If I were capable of teaching this posture—which would take years of empathetic work with others and a stronger visual sensibility than the one I’ve got—I would be less locked in to tacit knowledge and more able to describe it in bodies besides my own. That is an aamazing skill (the two people who have offered me the best verbal instruction do not have bodies like mine—one is a male vinyasa teacher maybe twice my weight)—one I’m not given naturally and have not cultivated at any depth.

Anyway.

I said earlier that initially EPB starts as a hybrid with galavasana, with the bent-leg calf listing to center like a rudder, and then you gradually bring it into alignment with the arms in the sagittal plane.

That is the slow road and I can say that the first little way of it is easy if you already practice galavasana. I ended up taking the fast road and finding it more interesting in ways I’ll try to explain.

The fast road requires a big strong teacher whose kinesthetic intelligence, knowledge of ashtanga and attention to your practice are ridiculously keen. How likely is it to find skill and teacherly service like that? Pretty much impossible, which is why the slower road is all good.

In my case, for a couple of weeks, I had someone create a base for my upper arm and gently guide the knee to a place where it could stay, parallel to the same arm, without wobbling free. So I rested part of my bodyweight on that base–two stacked fists–while I found the point of balance and, gradually, learned that this posture is more about balance than strength. Once you’re in, the force between the knee and the tricep is the fulcrum, and if you bend the arms it’s actually easier to hold (once you’re actually up) than galavasana. To begin, it was fine for me to bring the knee sort of close to the elbow, though now each day I inch it closer and closer to the armpit.

With the earlier method, I was concentrating on straightening the back leg, lighting up the quad to counterbalance the weight of the head. Now I don’t even know what is happening in the leg, but I’m definitely not concentrating on making it straight or heavy. When the calf is in line with the arm, it feels like it’s only a balance around the strong knee-arm fulcrum. More precarious than effortful. I keep the elbows bent and each day play with moving the knee closer to the armpit.

Once I’m up, it’s easy. I play with bending bent knee even more sharply, finding out what that does not only to the rectus abdominus but to the hollow spaces below it. I think they call that uddiyana bandha. Alternatively, it works to play with the pelvic floor rather than the stuff around the diaphragm, but for right now I actually feel like the roots are a bit relaxed.

Which is funny, because now that I’m working a little deeper in to the series (practicing four of what I have been told are seven arm balances—if there’s more than this, do not tell me because I benefit from not knowing what is next) I am finally—after a year and a half—starting to feel grounded. For the first year I hoped for big stiff guys to practice near me, and finished practice feeling relatively spacey. The shift away from those more ethereal feelings makes me wonder if at this point I’m using the pelvic floor more than I realize… or if the brute physical force of all this lifting is turning me into a more solid kind of creature. For now.

4 Comments

  • Carl
    Posted 23 May 2008 at 7:35 pm | #

    What do you mean when you say you’re starting to feel grounded in these poses? Does that mean the now-innate physical knowledge has opened up space for you to feel more settled mentally?

    That one word — grounded — may be the most difficult idea in yoga for me to comprehend.

  • Posted 23 May 2008 at 9:13 pm | #

    tricep, shin, fulcrum. I have insisted on that I don’t know HOW many times, trying to teach people to do arm balances. well done, well said.

  • Posted 24 May 2008 at 11:42 pm | #

    Hi (0v0)
    I cut and pasted that and saved it for later reference. I think in my home practice I’m going to dedicate one day to researching these poses of 3rd.
    cheers
    Arturo

  • Posted 25 May 2008 at 8:09 pm | #

    Grounded… it’s just a collection of feelings, which means there should be a poetry of it. I’m still trying to capture, or point to, what that might be.

    Grounded is having a healthy relationship with gravity.

    It is being comfortable with the determinism side of the free will/determinism dynamic. Or the structure side of the agency/structure dynamic.

    Grounded is connected, mulchy, deliberate, able to look you in the eyes.

    It has roots.

    I dunno. Still wondering how to talk about this feeling… and the actually excessive lightness that yoga sometimes brings on the flipside (the body of light stuff is a idealized and fakey-fake at the margins). I don’t want to fly straight in to old typologies, but something like this sensibility is in everything from the system of the four humors, to Ayurveda, to the yoga stuff about tamas and rajas. All of which tend to annoy me because of the way they are used to obscure/categorize experience rather than to describe it….

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *