Losing My Bottle in Backbends

Mostly I like to think of myself as strong and fearless.

Sometimes I am and sometimes I am shit scared.

This week I looked a fear in the face and

Iyengar drops back into Urdhva Dhanurasana


ran away from it.

My nemesis in yoga is upward bow or wheel pose – the sanskrit name is Urdhva Dhanurasana.

The entry level in wheel pose is to push up from a bridge pose, which looks something like this:

Both bridge pose and wheel pose rely on two main things – leg strength and butt strength. Rodney Yee counsels that you should not attempt wheel pose unless you can support it with strong glutes and deliciously open hip flexors.

I am rather partial to Rodney Yee so I have given heed to his advice.

For a long LONG time I would go no higher in Wheel Pose than the version above.

Anything higher than that would crunch into my lower back and cause me a huge amount of discomfort.

I learned to deal with my ego.

The ego used to encourage me (with Gollum like whispers) to try to drop back into wheel from standing. A bit like this…

I can’t of course because that is crazy yoga voodoo.


What I have done, day by day is to push up from bridge pose into this position.

Yoga Pose Weekly - Bow Pose



This week, quite by accident, I found myself in a position where I was in a deep back bend against the wall on blocks. It looked a bit like this

It felt good.

It actually felt awesome.

‘Walk your hands up the wall’ my teacher suggested lightly.

I did.

‘Now walk them back down the wall to your blocks’.

I sort of did until I was about an inch of the way away from the blocks. The block stared up at me. I growled back at it. There we were, immovable object meets immobile yogi.

The block won.

Later I wondered why I find it so hard to trust my own judgment.

I guess it is a common problem.

Post-script: If you fancy conquering your own better judgment there is a useful blog tutorial by Annie at Supportive Yoga here here


Photo credit above: Chauncey Harrison ‘The Elegant Klutz’

Day 56 of the Shoe Challenge – Let’s All Fall Off the Wall

Have you noticed how children are so resilient and yet so fragile? So fearless and yet so timid? They can do the craziest things on play equipment and yet collapse in a heap if the wind blows the wrong way.

Last Monday the Minx and I headed off for our regular Monday jaunt to Tiaki Pilates & Yoga for a ballet class. In my mind’s eye, I can see how ridiculous it is for a middle-aged woman to be doing grandepliés and rond de jambes. Notwithstanding this, for an hour I can pretend that I am the child that I never was. The one that was surefooted and very seldom fell over. The one that could do handstands and the splits.  All of these things require an absence of fear.

En route to the class, the Minx and I were walking behind a young woman with a boy around 3 years old. He was trotting along some low walls ahead of us, none of them were over two feet off the ground.  I could feel rather than see the Minx making buttons* next to me.  She clambered up onto the wall, refused my steadying hand and took off at speed after the aforesaid boy. For a split second it looked like she was going to overtake him until she disappeared off the right hand side of the wall with a surprised squawk.  There was a moment’s stunned silence and then a terrible wail.  With fear in my heart I lifted up her dress (the Minx will only wear dresses) to see angry red scrapes running the length of her inner leg from calf to groin.  All I could do was to cuddle her, squeeze ice cold water on her wounds, kiss her better and hope for the best.

Later that evening I copped it from my husband.  “You should feel terrible about that” he said,  “You are a responsible adult, why didn’t you stop her?”

I did feel  terrible and there is no easy answer to his question.

All I can say is that for years I didn’t try to do things out of fear and I do not wish that fear on my daughter.  That is why I did not stop her. Better to have fallen off a wall than be too scared to get on it in the first place.

I have a residual memory, for example, of banging the back of my head falling over backwards a lot as a child. For that reason I still avoid doing unsupported standing back drops into Urdhva Dhanurasana.

The few times that I have tried dropping back without help I have landed on my head. Every time I fall and hurt myself I feel stupid and struggle with my own sense of frustration, my fear and anger at not being able to achieve a particular goal. So I gave up drop backs and started pushing up into backbends from the floor instead.

Someone once said that “Yoga is the process of the impossible becoming possible”.  For my children the world is full of seemingly impossible things to try and to accomplish like walking, jumping, talking and reading.  They are fearless and full of fight to face up against the world – as long as you don’t ask them to leave their foul smelling comfort items behind while they are doing so.

The Noisy Boy has Robe.

Robe is a black satin dressing gown that I wore when I was seven months pregnant with him to try to look alluring.  He requisitioned it at the age of six months and it has been his constant companion since then. The Minx has Doggie (aka Dogdog).

When my children have their comfort items they are invincible.  I have no comfort items. Being an adult is hard. No wonder so many people smoke. But life is about trying new things, stepping out of your comfort zone, feeling the fear and doing it any way.

The shoes of the day are low heeled, almost flat but I wobble when I wear them as the kitten heel is centrally placed.  Every time I wear them I get cross and frustrated -why can’t I walk in inch high shoes? I scream internally. The more that I scream, the less that I accomplish.

So in honour of my kids and their fearlessness and for this post I climbed a wall in the back garden which is FIVE FEET HIGH to bring you a picture of the shoes of the day. Shoes that  frustrate me and anguish me and thwart me on the flat ground.

As the director John Hughes once said:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.

Now,  who wants to catch hold of my waist while I have another go at a back drop? It’s only bending a different way after all.


* Making buttons is a Scottish/Northern Irish expression for anxious, excited or fidgeting in anticipation.