Sex and 3S, or, a post about putting your feet behind your head • 2 July 2008

The discussion from 28 June just keeps going. I tried to end it with a kick in the teeth from Chuck Norris, but then the questions got really provocative in a good way. So carry on down there.

Meantime… they say women in third cannot get enough.

I wouldn’t know anything about that.


Hypothetical explanations for the observed increase in sex drive among female third series practitioners:

H,a: Doing that practice requires you to go to bed stupid early, so you never go out, never get laid, and therefore become pent up.

H,b: The arm balance stuff puts a woman in touch with a certain aggressive she-wolf vibe that western society represses, and the reconnection with her viscera restores that lost shade of self-expression. You know, dominatrix energy? Catwoman stuff?

H,c: Putting your foot behind your head constricts blood and lymph circulation to the lymph nodes in the groin, and those same glands are flushed with energy when one exits the posture. Over time and repetition this gland cleansing and shift of energy creates some, well, intense feelings.

There’s probably something to each of these, with H,a being not insignificant. But to focus on H,c—the foot behind the head (FBH) thing.

Who wants to put their foot behind the head? This is preposterous.

I said that I’d try to write about this, but I don’t know how much I can contribute usefully since I have not studied many bodies in any variety of FBH. Here’s a scattering of thoughts, for what it is worth.

● When ashtangis talk about FBH, one of the first considerations is anatomy—especially openness of the hips and relative length of torso and legs. There’s also the matter of flesh around the hips, which does make a difference here. I wonder, where do 14 year old Indian boys fare in these matters? From the spindly images I’ve seen, Krishnamachya was probably working with a whole different anatomy when he put together these FBH sequences. (Yes I said that.) One for which FBH was not as preposterous.

● For the people I’ve known, FBH is a big body-transformation that comes in phases. It’s as extreme, and as progressive, as are the back bends… but perhaps we focus on FBH less because it doesn’t look as dramatic as bends bends, because the emotional experience is internal rather than expansive, and because the postures don’t include the intense bonding experience with a teacher that can occur in back bends. But one could consider that FBH is just as big a deal as back bends.

● As several people have said, there are two ways to practice FBH—one that emphasizes external rotation of the femur, and one that incorporates a bit of counter action and is less about getting the whole leg behind the back than it is just hooking the foot behind the head. Susananda has a good discussion of this. I wonder if the more externally-rotated, baddha konasana approach is especially good for people still working to deepen the intermediate FBH—deep external rotation is pretty much a pre-requisite for beginners who are also opening the muscles of the legs. Meanwhile, as the hips become more open and the work is to stabilize them with the pelvic floor and any leg muscles that can be activated, there is somewhat less emphasis on external rotation. For me, this approach also helps keep the IT band from becoming agitated and begins to counteract would-be trouble arising from a mobile sacrum.

● Sometimes, I will practice a deeper leg-behind-the-back kind of thing, especially in more passive postures. But this is, in the context of third, not really for me about letting go. If I happen to be adjusted in either nidrassana or kashybasana, actually, there’s often a feeling in the next many breaths that the entire stability of the sacrum and pelvic floor could be lost. I’ve once irritated my lower back quite intensely this way—by releasing entirely in the passive posture, then beginning to move before strongly re-engaging the pelvic floor. I know they say the mulabandha is a subtle practice, but in order to stay safe in deeper FBH for me it is not too subtle. It’s the center of the awareness in those postures merely to keep my SI joints from gaping open and my sacrum from turning into a plumb bob in a windstorm. Or something. I don’t know that I would be working so close to the edge of instability if I were a skinny long-legged Indian boy, but in my case doing so much FBH requires using the pelvic floor to pull back from the edge.

● A final reason I am interested in less externally rotated, more counter-acted FBH (as long as I can keep the neck clear) is that it’s possible some days to get all the way there on an inhale. This goes to my main question for FBH: What if third series were led? What’s the FBH technique then, what are the ways to sublimate it to a single breath, but in a way that’s structurally sound to the point of supporting a durvasa?

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