Cobra pose is a mini-backbend where you articulate more arch in the upper part of the spine, while lengthening out the lower back. I often cue students to “press into the hands and feet to help pull the chest forward.” Arching the chest forward can be a difficult move to feel. “I can feel my shoulders drawing back, but I can’t tell if I’m pulling my chest forward and breathing into my upper back”, one my students related.
One trick that helped my over-archy, banana-like lower back stay long was placing a block between my ankles in cobra. Place a (preferably soft) block the long way, skinny side down in between the ankles and squeeze the block with your inner ankles. Keep the squeeze and bring the hands forward in front of the shoulders. Inhale, press into the hands, and pull the ribs forward while continuing to squeeze the block with your ankles. Direct your breath up into the collarbones and upper spine.
Squeezing the block helps you draw the sitbones (bones at the bottom of the butt) down. It makes it pretty hard to arch from the low back, so it helps re-pattern your body to pull the ribs away from the waist and arch from the upper spine. You can keep a block by your mat and practice this cobra variation anytime.
I’m really excited about an upcoming workshop that I am co-teaching with fellow Forrest Yoga teacher, Sandy Till. I taught with Sandy for about a year and a half at SF Juvenile Hall through the Lemonade yoga program, so I’m thrilled to get a chance to teach together again with her. We’ve got some great stuff in store…
Step Into Summer
Summer is a time of transition! As we step into this new season and change, lets find our sense of joy and connection to brightness. This workshop will help you re-center and enliven your spirit through invigorating back bends and FUN inversions. Join us and step into summer with a renewed sparkle in your step. All levels welcome.
This workshop is being offered 2 times in 2 different locations:
I made the decision on Day 2 to skip the morning meditation and just come for the practice. I showed up feeling guilty, even though I knew I’d made a healthy decision for myself. Sleep was more crucial for fighting my cold and there wasn’t enough of my voice for chanting. However, I underestimated the travel time and showed up slightly late, creeping in during the beginning wrist stretches. As Ana started to set the intention for the day, I almost started crying. I hate being late and I felt so bad about it. “Here I am a Forrest Yoga teacher–and a certified one at that, yet here I am showing up late. I should know better. Who am I to think that I can be a good Forrest Yoga teacher when I can’t get it together?”
The intention for the day was working with an emotional issue. Gee, from the above paragraph, can you tell that there might be some ongoing emotions and self-deprecation that need addressing? Ana reminded us that when we’re working with an issue, it’s usually one we have to continue working with. Part of working with it is becoming aware of that self-loathing, critical voice that arises about how we should’ve gotten over it by now, etc., etc. “When that crap that you tell yourselves arises [notice, she didn’t say if],” said Ana, “Tell yourself, “Yeah, I’m not doing this today.”
Still wanting to cry, I was not happy with this intention. Sure that’s fine for other people to stop that self-degredation, but in my case, I deserve it and if I let go of feeling bad, then I’d really not have it together. For those beginning moments of the class, I truly felt like it was impossible for me to do.
But Ana has a way of getting you to do what you don’t want to do. So I started small. I figured I’d work with an intention of staying out of self-deprecation and feel for getting a more balanced and accurate perception of what I was experiencing in my emotional and physical body, but only for the duration of the practice. Sometimes I had to make it even smaller than that, “Okay, I’ll work this intention, but only for this pose.” One pose at a time, I continually tried to bring myself back to breath and out of the ongoing loop of self-criticism. At best, being in that spot is just not at all helpful with moving towards change. Or as Ana might put it, “That’s worse than useless.”
Backbends were the word of the day. We made use of a lot of props to get there, working a lot of boats and cobras while squeezing a block between the feet to keep length in the low back. Ana also combined the rolled-up mat with the block and us place the roll right between the ribcage and pelvis and lay over it for cobras, boats, and bow pose. “This gets you into your shit,” Ana said. “Literally.” From there we progressed to bow with a strap and wheel, playing with wheel walks (walking forward and back, in a circle while in wheel pose). I had fun with a group of us on the floor guiding an upside-down woman beside us trying to maneuver her wheel in a circle. Forget logic problems; wheel walks are the ultimate brain teasers.
Some tears came for me at the end of class and it was wonderful to have a fellow Forrest Yoga teacher there to give me the compassion I was struggling to give myself. I mopped my face, blew my nose, and set off for taking my intention into that next breath off the mat.