Sunday, September 18, 2005

Downward Falling Tree

My whole body hurts. It hurts because I've been doing some out-of-the-ordinary physical labor.

Last week we had a storm here with 70 mph winds. When it was all done, my wife and I discussed a new way to make use of our back yard. And it called for cutting down two trees.

Yesterday, I went back there and cut them both down.

Getting a tree to fall down is not that difficult. But doing it without ruining yourself or something of value takes a little skill. (The safety net around my daughter's trampoline took some damage, but the trampoline, and everything else back there, including my house, survived untouched.)

(In case you were wondering, no chainsaws were involved. Hand saw all the way!)

One thing was made painfully clear to me yesterday. While the tree was up, nicely vertically aligned, very little effort was needed to push the freshly cut tree in the direction I wanted it to fall.

But once the fallen tree was on the ground...oh my! It's incredibly heavy and difficult to manage. Lots of heaving, pushing and pulling were needed. Therefore, my whole body hurts. Everywhere.

So what has all this to do with yoga?

It has to do with being upside down in downward facing tree pose, handstand (adho mukha vrksasana).

Here's what I notice when I spot new students in handstands. As the legs are moving through space, coming up from the floor, finding their place directly over the arms and torso, there's a degree of comfort that the new handstander feels because he or she can clearly feel in the arms and hands the weight of his own body.

But once you're vetically aligned, you immediately feel lighter. You "grow up."

For most, this is startling. It's so startling, many react by flailing their legs. Legs akimbo, of course, throws off your balance and you come careening toward the floor, just like the two felled trees in my back yard.

It all happens so quickly, few notice it. But I almost always point it out, because many believe they're not strong enough to do the pose. Strength is a factor, of course, but believe it or not, once you're vertical, you feel light.

I notice it myself more clearly in headstand, sirsansana. It feels 'safer' when my body weight is shifted forward. In that position, I feel my weight strongly in my elbows. But as I shift my weight backwards, so that I'm perfectly aligned over my head, the weight in my elbows, and my head, both get lighter! It often frightens me.

It frightens me because in this perfectly aligned position, the tiniest adjustment shifts my body weight significanlty. If I over-adjust, over I go and down to the floor, where I'm heavy.

The long term goal of my practice is to make very precise subtle adjustments that keep me upright.

By the way, you do this all the time when you're upright. You just make them with such skill and familiarity, you rarely notice.

Don't just sit there. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


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