Sixty-five days into 90 days of shoulder stand, I find myself thinking about a New Yorker cartoon I saw a long time ago, and by that I mean 30 years.
The drawing is of a street prophet, in beard and tattered robes, holding up a sign.
Instead of the expected message – “the end is nigh” – it reads: “It’s just going to continue and continue.”
It still makes me laugh, not just from reversed expectations, but also at the wry truth that as a message of doom, “it’s just going to continue and continue” could, depending on the circumstances, easily beat out “the end is nigh.”
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the pose itself that’s evoking prophecies of continuity.
In fact, it’s still changing. Here are a few of the ways:
• I have a new sequence for the one-legged variations, suggested by this segment from BKS Iyengar’s 1976 video, Yoga The Ultimate Freedom.
Part of his sequence is to take one leg to the floor over head, then as he lifts that leg back into position, he extends the other one to the floor behind his hands. The pose he ends up in is one-legged bridge pose, and it’s a lovely thing.
I’ve taken to it, because I like the way it flows.
• By happy accident, the day after realizing that my new, somehow unfinished feeling at the end of shoulder stand, was a craving for supported bridge pose, I listened to Geeta Iyengar’s July 25, 2008 pranayama class from the Ramamani Memorial Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune.
In the shoulder stand segment, Geeta had everyone use a bolster to support their feet in plow pose. At the end of the shoulder stand, they put the bolster vertical on the mat for bridge pose.
Head and shoulders on the floor, torso on the bolster, and legs on the shoulder stand platform: no fussy setup, and it’s exactly what my body wants.
• I continue to use my Donald Moyer inspired shoulder stand platform, and I’m still delighted with it.
I would swear that the flesh at the back of my neck is less dense, and my shoulders feel freer.
• I notice more quickly when I lose my awareness in the pose. Because shoulder stand is comfortable for me, I can come to an effortless balance, a moment of dynamic equilibrium. Inevitably, that breaks up, and the pose starts to feel heavy. The problem is that the transition is subtle. Now I notice sooner that I’ve fallen asleep in the pose, and it’s time to rouse my shoulders, my buttocks and my legs.
In fact, the cartoon prophet and his sign popped up in a place I hadn’t quite expected.
It’s here: I made a commitment. I seem to be keeping it. And somewhat to my surprise, I’m the same person, with the same habits as before, only now I do a shoulder stand every day.
I didn’t know I was expecting something else, but apparently I was.
Some part of me had been off spinning a story about how I would do a shoulder stand every day, and that discipline would seep into the rest of my life, turning me into a paragon of responsibility and organization.
It’s true that I am a smidgeon more mature because of this practice.
Now that “not having time” is no longer an option, I have to plan my day in advance. That means admitting I have more control over the way I spend my time than I sometimes like to pretend.
Otherwise, I remain the same imperfect me.
Apparently that’s just going to continue and continue.
Image courtesy of Gene Hunt, via Flickr.
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