1 October 2009

Backbend Hunger

Tuesday 29th September 2009

We all recognise the BIG messages sent from our body to our brain - like hunger and thirst, cold etc…they’re strong physiological messages urging us to take action to restore balance and homeostasis.
They become urgent if our survival is at stake.
We can also recognise LITTLE body messages...like an itch. The speed that these messages are transmitted to the brain and acted on is amazing…and we’re usually unconscious of our auto responses for corrective action...like a scratch!

I’ve had a few days where my body has been crying out for some backbending...an itch that had to be scratched. Sensing this need has had me wondering just how the body communicates such things to the brain. I figure it’s a rational physiological process that involves the relaying of information from the body to the brain through the nerve channels. We all tune into this message system with varying degrees of sensitivity and I’m certain that both yoga and meditation practice enhance this ability.

So after REALLY itching for a backbend practice, tonight I got the time to scratch the itch.

I stepped onto my mat at 6pm: surya namaskars, standing poses that dug deep into my joints and crevices, then straight into a sequence of backbends:Supta Virasana, Ustrasana, Salabhasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana, a reclining backbend with a block under my thoracic spine (simulating a straight legged, passive Matsyasana), three deeply disturbing (but fantastic) Urdhva Dhanurasanas, then Viparitta Dandasana.
It was wonderfully satisfying.
A big smile spread from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.

After deep backbends the supporting muscles around my fragile lumbar go limp and play dead leaving my spine very vulnerable to injury, so easing my body very carefully out of the backbends is critical… laying on my back and drawing each knee alternately to my chest while curling up and reaching chin to knee is the best release, followed by the very unAshtanga reclining twist with double bent knees, then Janu Sirsasana to finish.
No inversions (menstruating), no Padmasana finishing poses (no excuse). Just a short Savasana to take practice time to just over one hour.

But the unmistakable urge for backbends that followed me around for a few days has got me curious. I want to investigate this phenomenon further.
Back to my questions…
What is the process through which my body tells me it needs backbends?
What is that little itchy feeling that something’s amiss or out of balance in the body and is in need of attention?
And here’s an interesting one…is it my body or my mind that is out of balance – with hunger or thirst it’s definitely the body, but backbends???? Has my loving heart closed off??
How do those subtle messages from the body reach my conscious mind?
Have scientists worked this one out yet?

Tonight I’m going to consult my body bible: Tortora’s Anatomy and Physiology, to see if it can give me at least some of the answers, but there’s a lot that goes on in the body/mind system that western science doesn’t acknowledge, even though other great civilizations have (Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for example)
But I won’t get started on how limited our western science of medicine is or I’ll never stop.

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