Monday, 1 November 2010

The long story

Last week while I was at the shala, I was hanging back pre Kapo, the teacher was busy but I wanted an assist and so I was using it as a sneaky warm up.  Anyway the teacher came over and suggested  I take my hands to by forehead and STAY there and BREATHE.  Huh?  I guess I was just kinda chilling in comparison to that, I stayed there for about five breaths and came up.  She asked me if I was okay, I was I just found it a difficult place to be.  Teacher then discussed how sometimes we have to come out of a pose because it hurts but sometimes we just find it a difficult place to be.  Huh?  She so had my number so we did it again and I stayed and breathed through it, it was intense and then he took me into my heels.

When I am at home, I work at kapotasana lots,  I'm not very warmed up when I am at home and so the first thing I do is hang back for a BIT.  What's a BIT?  Great question, it's for as long a I feel like and this discussion with this teacher made me realize that I was coming out it if it felt too intense, not physically intense, although kapotasana certainly is that but emotionally and mentally.  In coming out I was missing out on an opportunity to breathe into those dark spaces.  To be somewhere I do not want to be with calm mind.  I started to time the third hang back.  I held it for one minute and breathed. Timing it made me stay there even when emotionally it got tough.

I think breathing into those dark spaces led to some interesting emotional releases last week.  I found myself outside of practice not wanting to be in the moment I was in.  It took me a while to figure out that's why I didn't want to be where I was, doing what I was doing, but upon realizing and thinking, what's so wrong with here, it dissipated.

Soon after I was first given kapotasana, which was December,  I was inspired by Boodiba to do Kapo B before kapo A.  She was doing timed ones with Venkitesh in mysore at the time.  So I decided to do the same.  It was really good for my kapotsana but emotionally it was too much.  I started to dread kapotasana, and it would take me AGES to pluck up the courage to go back.  So I stopped doing the timed ones for  a while, ahimsa (non-violence) has to start with oneself.

If I remember correctly, I decided I would still do kapotasana B before it but not time it, so there was no pressure.  I find it hard to be warm enough for kapotasana A at home and so the kapotasana B helps.  The last few months the intensity has been less and I have been more able to breathe into these spaces.  I have been doing 1 minute Kapotasana B's,  which last week I started to increase so I could slow down the hang back.  As a cycle commuter I think this has really helped to open the front of my thighs and psoas as well as warm me up, I'm usually still cold when I get to Kapo but never after, lol!  So what I am saying here is I have found it very useful to time myself so that I stay and breathe into these challenging spaces but it had to be when I was ready.

I have also been hanging off my backless chair for 5 minutes (outside of practice), even when in that, I sometimes I want to run. I know a lot of people have an intense time with kapo.  I feel a sense of responsibility as I write this for those of you who are not here yet.  I don't want to put it in your head that this pose will be terrifying, maybe it will maybe it won't.  Maybe you will love it.  I love it, it has given me such a fabulous opportunity to heal.

I decided, I was going to do this, I can be pretty determined.  I've probably done 2 to 3 years worth of kapotsanas in less than one year.  I had surrendered to the fact that it might take me years to grab my heels by myself, but I was determined that I would.   Not because I was stopped there, I'm not, and not for the asana itself but because of what it required of me.  Everyday it required me to face my deepest fears, to be with physically intensity, to be present and to be with it all, to breathe and not react..

 I've been hanging off the chair (separate to practice, to open upper back),  doing 3 hang backs, 2-3 kapo B's and the 3 attempts at Kapo A, every day that I practice at home, at the shala I just get on with it, which is also useful as there is less drama.  On Tuesday as I was hanging back for my kapo A attempts my upper back started to open as I breathed into it and it opened again and again and again, each time I breathed my back would uncurl, my right shoulder also released.  I went down I walked in and almost got my heels, I touched them but I could not quiet get hold.  I realized as I lowered down that my head was inside my feet.  I can only remember this happening once before, when I was in Italy and Louise Ellis was helping me open my upper back.  It was also really hot in Italy, compared with my living room in October.

I realized I had the flexibility to grab my heels but needed to work on the last part, actually grabbing them.  After 3 attempts I moved on with my practice.  On Wednesday I found that extra space in my back again,  I guess it's been opening for a while, the movement is quite dramatic.  I just hang there and release until there is no more movement.  The breathe helps create the space.  I say I just hang there but ya know it is very intense!  Then I lowered down and walked in and again touched my heels but flailed.  Many repeats later, I decided to walk in and then lift up into my legs as much as possible, to find a little bit more space and then I did it,  I grabbed both heels.

Came up and cried in a way, I can not ever remember crying before, perhaps it is how a child cries.  I was both happy and sad.  My body trembled.  Intermediate can do that, but I've never had it so much, it felt like something was leaving my body. 

Then I did the rest of my practice, I almost felt like stopping but I am glad that I had loads more to go, helped me work through it to witness even the intensity of the event without getting too attached to it.  Just to go back to my breathe and dristi and move on.

Update, today (Monday) I managed to get my heels again!  Things I have to remember,  right now are.  Hang back hand in prayer by forehead and breathe into upper back and surrender, look back at feet, keep looking at feet all the time to keep oppening in upper back.  Lower down, slowly, keep legs active and hips as far forward as possible.  Walk both hands around outside of feet, all the while looking at feet and keeping legs strong.  When I feel like I can not go any further,  engage legs and lift up, kind of a deep kapo B, breathe and find a little more space.  Creep in  in again keeping legs strong.  Here is the critical bit because I find it hard to get hold of my feet so I have to keep going back until it really, really is impossible to go any further.  If I try for the heels to soon, I loose my grip on the outside of feet and flail.  So I have to take my hands way back on the floor further than I mentally think I can, push up again and then go for the heels.

I expect this new found flexibility may come and go, and I'm fine with that.  I now know that it is possible to take myself there, physically, mentally and emotionally.  I am grateful for the opportunity to practice and to take all that is gives me into my life.


  1. i have seen people take the hands together behind the head to come into kapotasana. i tried this at some point, and find it to be both easier and harder. the stretch is a little more intense and immediate, but then the hands are locked in right there to grab the feet, there is a little less flailing and less energy expended to find the feet.

  2. Hi, lilavb, thanks for the support.

    Anonymous, thanks for your comment, I think I know what you mean, I did a workshop with David Swenson and he showed this entry. Have played with it. Have tried so many thing with this pose!!!! It's a good plan because you don't land so far back. I might have a go tomorrow, thanks for the reminder. It is when I grab the feet that I find it hard to grip, I prefer to walk up the outside of my feet (on the mat) if I walk far enough to grab heels, then there is something to hold onto and no flailing, it just takes a lot of mental willpower to wait that long before trying. I think writing this will help me remember though!!!

  3. Hooray!!! It's such a special moment. For some reason I tend to have a lot of my own "moments" when I'm practicing alone, and the heel grab happened that way.

    Everyone's talking Kapo today! I've been saying how I love doing it as a part of 3rd, at the end of the series. I'm so much more open that I can walk the hands in & then scootch them up the feet to the heels at the same time, not one, then the other.

    I never hold it that long in Astanga practice though. Chop chop!

  4. Thanks Linda, yes so much Kapo talk today! I'm glad I was alone as I feel like I let go more as a result in post kapo melt down. I look forward to a chop chop kapo practice, that's how it should be. In out move on with day.

  5. Hi Helen,

    i just discovered your blog and reading your experience of Kapotasana is such a pleasure...this is a pose the scares me every day, or at least every day i attempt it! Some times the fear is so much it takes me a moment to physic myself up. Sometimes it feels like i am the only one struggling with it as i watch ( out of the corner of my eye) most of the others who have got this pose slip into it with such ease!I know I know...comparing is ridiculous.
    Anyway thank you for your in site and i look forward to reading more from you
    x melanie

  6. Hi Celiafox, thanks for reading and commenting.

    You are definitely not alone in fact I wonder if the people you see doing it with ease really do. I totally know what you mean though, that's for sure. :-)