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My body is stubborn.  Or is it my mind?  How much can I be holding, I wonder, in my shoulders, chest, and upper back? My head wants to turtle forward, my shoulders draw in on themselves, my back and neck seem fused, my shoulder blades are tucked behind my ears.

Yes,  more chair back bends today.  I really dislike bending backwards over a chair.  Dislike it intensely, despite the brief body insight of greater alignment I described in a previous post.

But guess what?  I want to rush right out and get myself a chair so that I can practice this crazy exercise daily!

No, I am not masochistic, and honest, I do believe ahimsa is paramount in practice.  In fact, I encountered struggle today that led me to a deeper understanding of ahimsa (non-violence, which in the context of yoga practice can mean being gentle with yourself).

Here’s what happened:  I discovered WHY I dislike back bends over a chair.  The positioning puts the focus EXACTLY on my problem areas.   Not only did I discover precisely what my problem areas are,  I also discovered (insert drum roll) how to treat them!

“Ah – It’s all in the set up,”  I exclaimed after a particularly frustrating series of back bends consisting of struggle (me) and reminders to let go (teacher).   Let go of your head, let go of your neck, let the mental struggle go – no, don’t lift up there, open the shoulders, let the head go,  lift the chest, shoulder blades tucking in yet broadening…. Let The Mental Struggle Go.

Direct encounter with stubbornness.  There were very precise instructions for both the set up and the move into the back bend.   My body was stubbornly grasping on to its old habitual patterns, and my mind was stubbornly attached to knowing how to move to adjust it…  all of which was WRONG!   Wrong in the context of this particular back bend created a literal pain in my neck.

The moment that I was told “let the mental struggle go” I got it. In a moment of clarity, I let go of what I thought I knew, which then allowed me to let go of the struggle.  Once I let go of the struggle, I found that I could move more easily in the direction of opening.

It is not possible to force the body into change.  As soon as there is struggle, there is also tension.  Struggle is limiting.

I reset my frame of reference.  I stopped, set up precisely, moved slowly, pausing, opening, moving, pausing, opening, moving ~ slow, deliberate, precise.  Allowing the body to adjust gently to each new movement.

I wish I could say here that the pose suddenly became easy.  It did not.  It remains difficult.  But in this new precision, I saw where ease could be.  I felt the possibility of release in my chronic tension areas.  I realized the potential to prevent future pain.

This new awareness has me excited.  Maybe, just maybe, I might learn to like bending backwards over a chair.  Maybe, just maybe, I might find a way to release that chronic tension and prevent that tendency toward a dowagers hump.

Maybe, just maybe, there really is something to this yoga stuff…