A couple weekends ago I was up in the Catskills for a yoga retreat led by my beloved Ashtanga yoga teachers Michael and Lacey. It was beautiful and relaxing and just what I needed. There were green hills and bright skies. At night we saw all the stars. We pointed out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and the Milky Way and Orion. There was amazing food. There was a swimming hole and hammocks and chickens and gardens and a labyrinth and a bonfire and a salamander. And there was, of course, some focused yoga practice. Ashtanga sandwiched between Yin.
That Saturday Michael gave me drop backs. He told me to try to stand up out of my back bend (to which I laughed), and after my sad attempt he stood in front of me and supported my back, helping me bend to the floor and come up, and bend and come up, and bend and come up. We took this photo on the float in the swimming hole to celebrate my being given drop backs: Over the last two weeks I’ve tried every day to push myself up into a standing position out of my back bend. I came so so close. I could tell that I had found the momentum. I could tell it was right there. But I was so tired. My leg muscles burned from the effort.
This morning as my husband and I were walking to the studio I said, “Today I’m going to stand up out of my backbend. Today it’s going to happen.” It became a mantra as I took my practice. I was extra focused. I told myself I was strong and powerful and energetic. And at the end when it came time for my backbends I fought hard. I failed a few times. But I felt it there — I was just on the edge of a breakthrough. I took a few extra breaths before trying one last time. I started rocking.
I stood up. For the first few seconds I was in shock. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it. Michael grinned at me and said, “Okay, now drop back on your own, and then stand up again. From now on you’ll do all your drop backs by yourself.”
Cue nervous laughing. I had to fight down some fear. But then I dropped back alone, too. And tonight, at home, I tried it again. Because I had to prove to myself it was real. I came up out of backbend. I dropped back. I came up again. No teacher there to catch me. Just me. My strength. My energy. In one of my favorite interviews in Guruji David Swenson says, “There is a saying of the alchemists: through repetition magic is forced to arise.”