In yoga, the front of the body is associated with the individual, and the back of the body is associated with the universal. When we curl into ourselves, we tend to hunch our shoulders forward, cross our arms and bow our head, protecting the heart. When we’re able to open up, we melt our heart forward, pull our shoulders back, and lean back, unafraid.
It’s a tall order. It can be a hugely emotional undertaking. It takes strength, courage, and trust.
My shoulder blades move more easily and smoothly down my back; I’m more conscious of keeping the sides of my body long. I can melt my heart down toward the floor or out toward the front of the room. I’ve never really been afraid of the leaning back part (how I adore ustrasana!), but it feels a lot better when you’ve got everything else aligned properly.
And I suspect — no, I know — that staying in my back body is the key to being able to kick up into a handstand (the Holy Grail of my practice). What happens, I’ve realized, is that when I get scared, I pull into myself, into my front body, and all the lengthening of my sides and melting of my heart and muscular energy I’ve cultivated in my arms comes with me. If I could just keep all that, I could get up. I need to trust in the fact that I can keep all that, and that it will keep me safe.
But I see now that all the back body work I’ve been doing lately — the way I’ve been feeling it differently — is work on the way to that goal. Today we did some binds and they felt better to me than ever before: so much more open, because I’m lengthening, and my shoulders and blades are in the right place. So much freer. (I love the contradictions in yoga — you get yourself into a bound pose and experience freedom. How crazy is that?)
I’m finding that I can lean back into poses more deeply now. I can keep my foundation strong, put my shoulders in the right place, and go. It’s very exciting, perhaps because the letting go part has always been difficult for me. I’m choosing to take this as a sign that I’m feeling confident enough in my center that I’m willing to trust myself and the universe more and lean into it.
I’ve got support — my family, my friends, my kula, the universe. It’s good.
Last night Todd and I sat down to watch “In Treatment” on Netflix. We put on a 20-minute episode, and Todd fell asleep about 15 minutes in. He slept through another episode, which I watched. Then I closed my eyes and promptly fell asleep too.
It must be noted that it was around 9:30 pm when all this transpired. I used to never fall asleep on the couch like that, much less at that early hour.
At some point after I’d nodded off, I heard Sara crying upstairs. The next thing I knew I was in her room holding her and rocking her. She has an annoying cough, and I think it woke her up and made her cranky. Also she had to pee. Then she fell right back asleep.
It occurred to me after I got into bed myself (leaving Todd on the couch downstairs — it’s near impossible to get him up before he’s ready, I’ve learned): That instinct never leaves us. I’m one of the deepest sleepers there is, but I’ve always popped immediately out of bed, wide awake and focused, when one of my daughters cried at night, from the moment we brought them home as newborns. I seriously don’t remember climbing the stairs to Sara’s room last night. I just knew I needed to be there, and I was there.
That’s pretty amazing. Especially since they are far from babies now.
As much as I love that my girls are getting older, I also realize that I’m slowly but surely losing my grip on them. Less and less will I be the center of their world. Less and less will they profess their utter love for me above all others. More and more they’ll start to rebel, assert their independence, want to be separate.
That’s what they’re supposed to do, I know that. But as with so many of the ironies of parenthood, the more freedom I gain from them, the more it pains me. Because I realize I won’t ever lose that mother sense. Even when they’re 40, if they call me crying, I’ll be right there.