Moving into the back body to take a back seat

My 2011 intention of living more and exploring being in myself has been leading me into an exploration of my back body in my asana practice.  Anusara yogis often speak of the “back body” as the dwelling place of grace; the unseen, underfed, and underappreciated side of the body.  When we talk about moving from the front body, we are talking about actions that originate in the ego, that are goal-driven and purposeful.  There’s nothing wrong with that – unless it’s the only way you move.  When you move from the back body, you’re literally taking a back seat – to the breath, to grace, and to the goals and purposes of something or someone else. Moving from the back body is generally slower.  It requires that you pause and listen first, then do.  For those of us with daily to-do lists, inhabiting the back body might be uncomfortable, unknown, or maybe even downright scary.

As you’re sitting wherever you are right now, notice this.  Does you back body feel full?  Is it full all the way from the back of your head down to your tailbone, or is there a point of collapse part of the way down – perhaps behind your kidneys, behind your waistline, or in your lower back?  Is each breath moving as much into the back body as into your belly and the front of your chest?  Are you leaning forward to read this, or sitting back to receive it?  Do you lean forward most of the time?

Try this.  Sit in a chair with a back, to create a boundary for your back body.  Then breathe.  Now can you tell?  Find the spot – or spots – of collapse or breathlessness and consciously draw prana into them.  Feel them fill against the resistance of the chair.  Does that make you feel calmer?  Less hurried?

For me the spot that resists filling is right below my ribs and above my waistline.  I feel it in the chair, and if I am paying attention, I notice the tendency in standing poses and back bends as well.  I want to go deep in the poses.  I want to do them better.  Want.  Better.  That’s not purna.  And it’s not exploratory; it’s grasping.  When I fall into this trap, I’m doing the poses decently to the casual observer, but a link in the chain is out of whack.  There’s energetic flow in my upper body and in my lower body but a blockage in the exchange between the two.

A couple days ago,I did a few hours of all telemark turns at the ski resort – a pretty vigorous endeavor.  And I was sore the next day, guess where?  In my lower back.  Just below the place that collapses.  There was energetic flow in my upper body and in my lower body, but something disconnected from the current where the two should meet and support each other.  When I ski, I am not in my back body, this I know.  I am on my guard, doing every action from sheer will-power to keep myself safe and strong, to get down the mountain faster with more style and better form.  And I hurt.

So I went back to the lab (a.k.a. the yoga studio) all this week and did very familiar poses but in less familiar ways.  I paused and breathed into the space behind my waistline to create a band of support I could not see but knew was there.  I took my gaze down and into my belly often – especially in poses like virvadrasana (warrior) 1 and 2, parsvokonasa (side-angle pose), and bhujangasana (cobra) – in a gesture of humility that says that I am not in charge.  I drew my lower ribs back so as to say, “I am taking a back seat; breath, you lead the way.”  And I found myself frequently adding twisting poses into the sequences (ardha matseyendrasana – a seated twist – and twisted utkatasana – chair pose , for example).  For me, twists always create boundaries that let me feel the back body expansion more – like the chair did for you in that earlier exercise.

It felt good, physically.  But more than that, I noticed that people smiled at me in random public settings for the rest of the day.  It might have been that I noticed them more, because I was in my back body, receiving instead of always putting energy outward.  Or it might have been that my back body connection to a flow great than that of my own ego somehow display itself in my carriage, and that made people more comfortable.  Or both.

It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not my “default setting.”  But I’m going to keep working with it to see if it makes me feel like I am living more.

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~ by bridgetannlyons on January 7, 2011.

One Response to “Moving into the back body to take a back seat”

  1. I’ve been hearing in my mind for the last week that I need to move more into my back body. Something I had heard in yoga years before. This is so helpful- thank you for sharing!

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