Last week, I spent a little time speaking with a fellow teacher on some of the finer details of arm balances. Toby had taught khoundinyasana in class, and afterwards we were comparing our approaches to the posture, thinking about where that other elbow goes, and how much support it can provide. It is not usual to be sprawled on the floor—or in a doorway—after class, exploring asana with words and movement.
Toby, she had mentioned, recently upped her game with parsva bakasana, or side crane. Having been able to land the asana comfortably with two points of contact (fingertips point to the side, back elbow under the hip, front elbow under the knee), she started entering the posture with a single point of contact (all fingertips point forward, nearest elbow supports one knee and the far elbow supports nothing). Although the two-point version might be more accessible from a stability perspective, it requires deep twisting through the torso. The single-point version requires far less twist.
I asked Toby what her process was in moving from two points to one point, and she answered, “one day, I just decided I would do it.”
She wasn’t being glib, and I don’t think she meant that she decided she would give practicing the asana a whirl one afternoon. I heard her statement as “I chose to execute this posture through sheer force of will.” She would bring it into existence simply by deciding it should be.
I paused for a beat with my head cocked, looking at Toby and measuring the potency of my own thought. Then, I planted my palms, all fingers facing forward. I lifted my hips, bent my arms, and connected the outside of my leg to just one elbow. I tipped some weight forward, my feet came off the ground, and I was floating.
My first-ever side crane with one point of contact! Still floating, I whooped and hollered and declared my victory. Not unlike that banana kid on Christmas.
I won’t pretend that years of practice and a strong understanding of body mechanics didn’t play a part in this achievement, but I also won’t disregard the power of choice and action. And that’s it, right? That’s progress. Placing trust in your existing experience and then doing more by dint of will.
[As caption: My face is so serious! Are these the most perfect versions of this posture? No. But they illustrate enough my experience with the asana, and the visuals show me where to keep finessing my alignment (e.g. my left arm is bent squarely at 90-degrees, but my right arm is bent deeper, and working too hard).]