I told a friend of mine recently that “By the summer I want to do a proper forward bend!” But then I realised that that’s not entirely true.
I always do, or at least try to do, a ‘proper’ forward bend. I just can’t bend forward very far because of my tight hamstrings. So when I said ‘proper’ what I actually meant was ‘impressive’, or rather ‘one that looks good to other people’. It was, quite simply, an ego statement.
Allow me to elaborate:
This is my current forward bend. As you can see there’s not a lot of bend in my hips, I don’t have my index fingers hooked round my big toes, and there’s a lot of daylight between my body and my legs. Basically it doesn’t look very good.
But! My back and legs are straight, my feet are flexed, I’m bending from the hips, and my shoulders and arms are relaxed. In asana terms I’m doing it correctly. I am relaxed and surrendering to the posture.
Now look at me trying to show off.
Looks good, right? I’m further forward, I’ve got hold of my toes, and my body is nearer to the ground.
But my back is hunched and tense, my shoulders are up around my ears, and my over-stretched arms are locked and not relaxed. In fact very little of me is relaxed in this position. This posture is not helping me maintain a calm body and mind.
We all want to make progress in our asana training, it’s only natural, and its great to have goals. But if we push ourselves too hard we just end up getting in our own way. Tension in the asanas is like driving with the brake on; it feels like you’re working hard, but ultimately you’re not doing yourself any favours.
You’ve just got to relax, and allow the asana to do the work. Go to your limit for that day, add your two pennies worth (go that little bit further), and then just let go. Over time you will improve, until one day you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
I still want to do a ‘proper’ sitting forward bend some day, but I really need to stop ‘trying’ to do one and just let it happen, which it will eventually if I just keep training in the correct way. And if not, well maybe there’s a lesson in non-attachment to be had there. Every moment is an opportunity after all.
And remember, if you can’t smile, it’s not an asana. 😀
Addendum: I mentioned this post to my osteopath and she reminded me of the word I should use instead of ‘proper’. That word is ‘full’; as in ‘By the summer I want to do a full forward bend.’ A much better way of looking at things I reckon.