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Ninety days of shoulderstand: the end is nigh – or is it?

Well, at least it's coming into view – and who knows, I might just keep going.

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.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

90 days of shoulder stand: a long and winding road

Five good reasons to let a timer be your practice buddy

Signs of summer, a souvenir from travel in England

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • anita November 30, 2012, 10:27 pm

    Reporting in that on this, the 30th of November, I have just completed 30 days of shoulder stands. You intrigued and inspired me with your 90 days Eve, so on November 1st I decided to try a week. Liking that, I extended it to a month. It was wonderful!

    Like you said, I don’t think I’m more responsible or anything that lofty. I didn’t study the pose the way you did but I did discover some new things about me and shoulder stand.

    I found taking the challenge ensured I did yoga (often lots more than a shoulder stand) every day – for sure. It wasn’t a chore, more a small relief when I did a bit of warm up then up I went!

    So thank you for the idea, Eve. We’re off on a short trip now with hotels and uncertain prop availability – or I bet I’d be carrying on. I may still on our return … after all, why not?

    • Eve November 30, 2012, 11:42 pm

      That’s fabulous. I’m so glad to have been the impetus for such a worthy project.
      Interesting, isn’t it, that doing shoulder stand every day makes it more, and not less interesting.
      There’s no doubt that traveling disrupts practice. We’re headed off for 10 days in early January, and I’m already fussing about what yoga props to take so I can keep on doing my breathing practice at the very least.
      Thanks for letting me know. You made my day.

      • anita December 8, 2012, 8:09 am

        Eve – on the challenges of yoga-while-travelling, on the road and came across an interesting development.

        I guess it’s mixing spiritual metaphors, but I discovered the hotel-provided devotional book keeps my arms lined up perfectly in pincha mayurasana!


        • Eve December 8, 2012, 10:20 am

          That’s brilliant! I wonder if it matters that the spiritual metaphors are mixed as long as the practice is prayer?

  • YogaSpy November 14, 2011, 11:10 pm

    Your “90 days of shoulder stand” reminded me of Gretchen Rubin’s post (in her blog The Happiness Project) on abstainers versus moderators: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2011/04/quiz-are-you-a-moderator-or-an-abstainer-when-trying-to-give-something-up.html. I’m the former, so all-or-nothing resolutions suit me. Thus your daily Sarvangasana commitment resonated with me, and I’m observing your progress and ever-clever insights.

    Some claim that it takes 21 days to set a new habit. You’ve been doing Sarvangasana daily for three times that long. Any idea whether this has sneakily snuggled into your daily routine… forever? Ah, I do recall that Eve doesn’t really like a strict agenda or being told what to do (perhaps even by herself) but…

    • Eve November 16, 2011, 10:52 pm

      Hey YogaSpy,
      I think I’m probably an abstainer too – it’s easier for me to make a rule that says “never” than it is to be moderate. And in this case, with shoulder stand every day, has been much easier than five times a week would have been. Once I know it’s non-negotiable, I don’t bother negotiating. Saves time and energy.
      I guess I’ll find out if Sarvangasana is my new forever friend some time around December 6, when I’ve finished 90 days and have a choice again. You’re right, I do have problems with strict agendas, but I’ve noticed that the pose I must do before the end of the day is anything but strict about when it gets done. Could be morning, could be last thing at night. Maybe that’s what makes it so easy to just keep setting up my props and getting into it.