A royal pain
I’m curious about the energetic differences between backbends and forward bends and how they relate to one’s affinity for and ability in headstand (the so-called king of all poses) vs. shoulderstand (the queen).
A very sweet and influential teacher whom I’ve studied with, Aadil Palkhivala, says that “energetically, backbends move you from the past into the present” and “open the three major energy centers in the body: the pelvis, the heart and the throat.”
Backbends and headstands are energizing and, let’s say, extroverted poses. Forward bends and shoulderstand are calming and, let’s say, introverted. So if I’m drawn more toward the latter set and they are easier, does that mean I’m stuck in the past? Am I overindulging a dosha? If backbends and headstands are much harder, am I resisting living in the moment? Am I afraid of something besides falling over and breaking my neck (a very real fear, by the way)? Am I constipated, heartless and choking on myself in every way? Or do I simply have physical limitations and sit at a desk too much?
This becomes a chicken and egg question. I do have some spinal issues that present very real problems in backbends. Did the physical issues come first, perhaps at birth, and manifest in my personality? Or has my personality, which tends toward the introverted and melancholic (but this was not always so!), had an effect on my body? For me, backbends feel like “undoing.”
If I judge myself based on the quality of my headstand, the message would be “I suck.” But I am not my headstand, or any other pose. Donna Fahri says, “When we realize that what we are advancing toward is not some physical form but an inward recognition of the truth of who we are, then we will not feel ourselves to be failing if we cannot attain difficult postures. ‘Advanced’ practice is any movement that brings us closer to this recognition of our true self.” I can live with that.
I have a Slinky on my desk at work, opened from one end to the other in a rainbow shape. I pick it up now and then and jiggle it from side to side and stretch it out straight. I’d like to feel like that in backbends and headstand, that loose but coiled energy.
What is your experience of energy in backbends (headstand) and forward bends (shoulderstand)? Is one set naturally harder than the other? How do you practice the harder set?