Out or In? Backwards or forwards? Who are you?

This?
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Or this?
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This is not to suggest that you need to be practicing one of those postures above, it is more a question of what comes easier to you?
Forward or backward bending?
Or in another light…
Giving or receiving?
Let me explain…
This thought stream all started a few weeks ago. I was ‘injured’ (opening something up?) and in pain.
I was confused and being right in the middle of it had nothing to blog to the public, although I found it easy to write to my dear teacher Sarah Hatcher, after she emailed me an article about pain… (here is an unedited 100% radical honesty email for your eyes only… uh huuh, here we go…):

Hey Sarah,
Thanks so much for taking time out to send me this. I love it.

Like I said this morning – I confess to being a little frustrated yes, but by no means I am averse to going through this cycle of pain. I have said many times that for me, yoga teaches us how to deal with frustration – on many levels. Right now I am right in it and only seeing a treasure trove of gems to take from it! You know me, ever positive. That said, sorry if my face looked like a slapped bum this morning! I have been loosing sleep from this (tosing and turning was a bit sore for a few days) but it is already starting to balance. I appreciate your guidance so much. Thank you.
I have had pain many times before and always been open (if not too open) to it! I invite it in so much that I once allowed myself to go too far with an adjustment from a past teacher… hence my now tentative attitude towards straying to other teachers for Ashtanga Practice. I feel with you I have found someone who respects pain, honors it and understands when and when not to go further. It is a fine balance – if learning these teachings was pain free, if it was easy and without effort, the lessons wouldn’t be as profound – I feel anyway. Ashtanga for me is ‘simple’, it has a method – but my goodness it is not easy. It’s also such a huge balancing act and boy do we have to learn to listen carefully to our body! I am learning a lot from this pain and know that it is just another lesson for me to learn. I’ll apologize again for my moodiness if any has reared it’s face at you! I don’t mean for that. Have a lovely Friday my dear!
Love Suey xxx

I, Wee Yogi, am a back bender by nature.
I often remind myself of that phrase, “… she would bend over backwards for you!”.
What proceeds is all relative of course.
I am not suggesting that those who can easily reach back and catch their ankles (without the slightest stir in their perfect breath pattern) are nicer, better people who will do kind things for you… in fact, being over generous has it’s down falls.
What I am suggesting is that we all have tendencies and those tendencies can sometimes hold us back from finding a healthier, more balanced or perhaps a fuller, richer more abundant life.
These tendencies also seem to be coming up (or out!), in our yoga practice.
I have said it once and will say it a million times more… Ashtanga yoga is a ‘search and destroy‘ kind of yoga.
If you have any kind of imbalance in your body, mind or spirit (we all have those) it will be brought to your awareness quickly (if you practice the method).
Some of us get injured, upset or ‘spiritually jangled’ (new coined term!) as a result of it and that can lead to one quitting completely!
It’s sometimes easier to turn around than to look at this head on.
In my own personal experience, we can choose to see the imbalance as something that makes some poses easy, some poses hard… or as an opportunity to grow, get stronger and come out the other side a more rounded, happier and healthier being.
As mentioned above, a recent experience like this of my own manifested as a painful injury/unknown ‘thing’ in my spinal column.
Over a course of 2-3 weeks I went from feeling more open and excited than ever on my mat, to becoming the direct opposite – closed, scared, doubtful and frustrated.
All of that said, I didn’t get off the train.
Yep, just when you are about to quit….
I chose faith as my defense weapon.
I went right back to the foundations of what I was doing.
I looked at my asana practice (obviously!) but I also looked closely at what was going on off my mat.
BOTH matter.
Similes are my favorite past time when it comes to yoga.
(That said SIMILIE not SMILE, alhtough smiling does help! ;))…
For me comparing the mat to real life makes everything more digestible.
So, just when I thought I was already ‘getting stronger’ (in every sense of the phrase)… I had to get stronger still.
(And more, but I won’t go into that here).
Being a natural back bender (even if it’s just a small back bend) is going to mean going the other way & looking inwards is a little bit harder.
It’s going to mean you need to round the spine more and curl inwards.
I have observed as a student and teacher that those who can bend back are easily influenced, open to receive and generally more trusting of the process. These folks LOVE to be the one who knows the answers already. They are the ones who don’t need to ‘look inside’, rather, everyone else around them does. They are often teachers, speakers, advice givers! I speak from personal experience here (that’s why I have more to say on the back benders point of view), they avoid their own stuff/B.S by ‘putting-out’ instead.
In contrast, someone who can round the spine, forward bend and and touch their toes before anyone even mutters the word ‘yoga’ (shhhhh!), are great at looking in, in fact, they are all about looking inwards and sometimes it can go too far. In a physical sense the shoulders are rounded and there is a kind of ‘drooping’ in their stance.
In a more mental/mind light, the thought of the word trust makes them slightly nervous. They can be better receivers… they do well at listening to advice (even if they don’t put it into action). The point is they are ready to take a look inside and don’t think they know it all already.
Yes, I am generalizing to the max, I am making sweeping statements and going to the polar extreams of these two types… but please people hear me out and take what you will… again it is all relative, we are all one of these types and on a scale from one to the other.
This is where i’ll leave you to make your own mind up.
Whatever is going on for you in your life or on the mat…
There are no plateaus, there is always something going on…
Don’t give up, look harder, listen better, open your eyes.
Trust, have faith.
LOVE x
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