“It isn’t a matter of fine acting performances or of those talents which always impress through expertise and technique, however special. It’s more a question of heart. That is an empty space, a group of performers simply and openly show themselves for what they are, and hope to be.”
John Heilpern

Conference of the Birds

Asana Gradient: Backbends

n

Gradient Documentation Started: Feb 32, 2020. Therefore, the timeline preceding this date is not precise, it is based on partial documentation and partial recollection.

This gradient involves numerous asana off the same “family.” Though the individual asana do evolve separately that evolution does not usually involve noticeable external changes in form. Looking from the outside you would not see a physical change (though you may notice an energy change).

The evolution is more noticeable in the sequence in which the postures come together. So unlike other specific Asana gradients, in this case, the focus of attention will be the sequence of itself

1: Not Practicing

The most noticeable form of this sequence is when it is not a part of my practice sequence. In fact, when I feel that my energy lacks vitality this sequence is one of the first things I remove from my practice sequence. It has a brmhana (expanding) quality and if my energy is not vital enough to support it (even though I may be able to “do” the sequence) it can deplete me and lead to negative effects (such as compromising my Pranayama practice).

When there is a more noticeable life distraction that affects my practice routine I may not practice this sequence for a period of time (weeks, sometimes months). After such a break I will often go back to a mild version of the sequence and start building it up again. This has happened numerous times over the years. Also, over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do get back to this sequence, if I am attentive, I can move quicker (then I did in the past) through the evolving steps. I consider knowing when NOT to practice this sequence a key step in my relationship with it.

Because of this fluctuating relationship with the sequence, what follows is the path of evolution of a sequence without a specific timeline.

Also, the diagrams do not show it, but between all the variations there is a resting posture.

2: Starting

The sequence starts with relatively simple and symmetrical variations of bhujangasana. This allows me to sense where I am, to see how I respond to the brmhana quality, to build up confidence and to test, over a few days, if I feel stable enough to add more to the sequence.

3: Sustain

This is a relatively soft transformation. It adds a third variation that extends the overall sequence and adds a bit of intensity. It tells me if/when I can continue to turn up the volume safely.

4: Asymmetrical

This transformation, the addition of ardha salabhasana, is more dramatic. It is a transformation I can do safely because I have an established relationship with backbends. It is likely not a suitable transformation for a novice practitioner.

5: Arm Sweeping

This transformation is actually a sequence of transformations. The change is in the 3rd variation in which sweeping of the arms is added.

Withing the sweeping of the arms there is an additional gradient. I go through different variations that gradually lead to the next transformation – the numbers indicate the arms positions I go to within the 4 repetitions of the asana – spending at least a couple of days at each variation:

  • 1 1 2 3
  • 1 2 3 4
  • 1 3 3 4
  • 3 3 4 4

6: Raising Legs

This is a transformation I sometimes skip (because I do plenty of leg work in other ways), but sometimes I go through it for a short period. I will add this alternating leg raising to the sequence:

7: Integrating Salabhasana

Salabhasana slides in naturally by evolving the arm sweeping in transformation 5.

I will do 3 arm sweeps (positions 1 3 4) and on the 4th movement go into a full salbhasana and continue on from there by either replacing another of the sweeping movement with a full salabhasana or adding a 5th movement. That is as far as I have gone at the time of this writing.

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