many thanks for Task 17. Below you can find my reflections, jumbled as you asked, and then Task 18.
I am lying on the yoga mat. The room is dark and it is late. Outside the leftovers of the super blue blood moon still shine brightly. The back of my wrists are against the skirting board and my elbows are bent and facing the ceiling. I am about to go into Urdva Dhanurasana (bridge posture).
Secret No 1: I haven’t done Urdva Dhanurasana for more than six years.
Thoughts are circling: Matisse, Iyengar, the effect of the moon on the waters, and a persistent whisper: ‘you will get injured’. I note the irony between my predicament and the movement of celestial bodies. Quite literally I do Urdva Dhanurasana every blue moon. ‘You will get injured’.
Secret No 2: I practise back bends so rarely, I can no longer remember the names of basic postures.
I have prepared somewhat by doing some thigh stretches and ______ (can’t remember the name). I do remember how the posture should be done though, and how it should feel when it is done ‘right’. ‘You will get injured’.
Secret No 3: I tried Urdva Dhanurasana about two years ago. My shoulders were so stiff I couldn’t lift up. I hovered over the mat for a few seconds, my elbows helplessly locked. I came done defeated. I have not tried to do the posture since.
When I first looked at Matisse’s lithograph I saw an imperative. The acrobat was to all intents and purposes doing a bridge.
I do the preparatory posture, whose name I can’t remember, and try to evaluate the likelihood of an injury.
The two acrobats side by side conveyed to me a sense of ‘before’ and ‘after’. First was a body full of contours and mountains. After was a shape devoid of the exuberance of its surfaces, a body devoid of its unevenness.
I also remember to take a deep breath as I lift into Urdva Dhanurasana. To my surprise I notice my elbows straightening without a hitch, my thighs stretching, my feet remaining in parallel. I come down and wonder if I will manage to go to sleep. I lift three more times.
Observing the two images from right to left there is a slow realisation. I ‘know’ what has happened here. There is an elision of surface I can recognise. The changes from one acrobat to the other have an uncanny resemblance to the instructions of Urdva Dhanurasana:
- the ankles need to be in the same line with the knees.
- the flesh of thighs needs to move towards the thigh bone and the thighs should stretch.
- the buttock flesh needs to move away from the lower back and flatten towards the body (have chapatis buttocks, Silvia used to say, not rotis).
- The armpits need to open.
- And the most virtuosic detail of all: the lower back needs to be at a right angle to the sacrum.
I play with the idea that Matisse knew about Iyengar Yoga. Or maybe Iyengar saw the Acrobats?
I make a mental promise to you Marie: to practise Urdva Dhanurasana more often.
Task 18 – Secrets
You need to find a space that somehow can contain you, a hole in the ground, the hollow of a tree, a corner between two walls. You need to be outside and alone, even if you are surrounded by other people. Place yourself in this place with your face looking in and away from the world. You can close your eyes. List out loud all the injuries you ‘ve had. Stop when you can remember no more. Make sure you have some time afterwards to do your yoga practice. You can bring back to the blog any aspect of your experience of the task in any form.