fbpx

Category Archives: Asana

One drop-back and two steps forward

By | Asana, Teachings | No Comments

Ever wondered how some yoga practitioners manage to move into drop-backs with ease and grace? Or, indeed, how one could possibly delight in any kind of backbend? If you have, you’re not alone; backbends induce fear in lots of people – and Peacock Tree Yoga guest teacher, Katy Wright, was once amongst them. Now, she says she’d go as far as saying she loves all backbends – they put her on her true path, after all…

People often speak about the transformational power of yoga and, as a yoga teacher, I’m always quick to point out the benefits of the practice. But it wasn’t until I opened myself up to backbends that I truly understood how potent drop-backs and other chest-opening postures can be.

Now, I can say without hesitation that backbends offer us freedom from both physical and emotional constraints – which is a crucial part of realising our full potential. And when we realise our potential, we’re following our dharma – we’re in the flow of life and things feel easier, as though there’s an unseen force supporting us on our journey.

Opening up with backbends

drop-back prep

Finding ease in backbends helped me find ease in daily life…

On a physical level, our day-to-day lives are generally rather closed. We sit in our cars, at our desks, on our sofas – shoulders forward, back slumped, core and chest compressed. Backbends counteract those tendencies and habits by opening the front of the body, allowing us greater ease and comfort in our movements and in stillness.

Want more? See ‘A lesson in backbends

In terms of emotions, when we feel upset, fearful or vulnerable, we sometimes develop habits of thought and behaviour which we believe will help us avoid encountering further pain or loss; we ‘close’ our hearts. By expanding and opening our chests, backbends help us break down these emotional barriers and let the sun shine inside of us, too – as my own story illustrates…

What Katy Did

Until a few years ago, any attempt I made to drop back into Urdhva Dhanurasana resulted in a blinding headache, and this was often accompanied by tears and an overall sense of panic. Then one day in 2013, I decided it was time to alter my approach – not realising that this would trigger a whole sequence of events which would completely change my life.

So what did I alter exactly? My attitude, is the simple answer. I stopped expecting – or, more truthfully, forcing – my body to fulfill my desire to ‘complete’ this element of the Ashtanga finishing sequence. Dropping back was no longer my goal; the focus, from this point, was on being gentle with my body and understanding its limits.

Over time, I began to treat the rest of myself with more compassion, too. I stopped judging myself in the way I feared others were judging me, and I started to realise that my ‘needs’ weren’t just hollow desires or things I didn’t deserve. I came to understand that they were essential for my personal evolution and preservation.

Just as I adapted my practice, I made step-by-step adjustments to my life. It wasn’t always easy, but I didn’t stop – not because I knew that my perseverance was leading me to the full expression of the posture, but because I knew it was leading me to the full expression of myself. As my physical and emotional barriers came down, I could ‘hear’ my heart’s desire with greater and greater clarity.

What Katy Did Next…

Ironically (or perhaps not), I did end up being able to drop-back with the kind of ease and grace I’d once envied in others. I even found myself dropping back with a gloriously open heart on the rooftop of a guesthouse in Southern Cambodia, mid-way through another long journey around some far flung corner of the world, as the video below shows! I’d always known I was one of those people who needed travel, to experience life elsewhere – and there I was, doing just that.

This is not to say that mastering drop-backs or any other type of backbend will automatically revolutionise your life as it did mine – at least, not on the outside. But I’m willing to state that a gradual and more self-respecting backbend practice has great potential to change your interior world for the better, at the very least.

Want to develop your backbend practice in a safe and effective way? Read this follow-up blog, which contains instructional videos and photo sequences.


Katy Wright established her yoga practice at the age of 17, during an unusually warm British summer, which she spent outside, working her way through a manual she picked up in a cheap book shop.Fifteen years later, she undertook her teacher training with Union Yoga in Edinburgh, and began teaching as part of the Peacock Tree Yoga team, alongside her job as a journalist with the BBC. Now, as a freelance copywriter, Katy continues to explore the wisdom of yoga in her personal practice and in her blog, The Cat on the Mat.

The 21-Day Plank Challenge

By | Asana, News | No Comments

Ushering in the Summer with the 21-day plank challenge

Don’t stop reading now – this is NOT an attempt to throw this Chinese policeman’s record-breaking eight-hour plank into a cocked hat, with your own three-week plank!

The Peacock Tree 21-day plank challenge is your opportunity to create strength in both body and mind, and set your Summer alight! And all with a 3-minute plank.

It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to build up gradually by following the plan (see link below) and ignoring the little voice telling you there are better things to be doing than building phenomenal core strength.

How to do plank

plank-challenge-collage

Don’t let your bottom cheat!!

For the challenge, we ask you to adopt dolphin plank, which involves resting on your forearms with elbows bent, rather than on your hands and with straight arms. Keep your toes tucked under and your body and legs off the floor, in a strong horizontal line (like a plank!).

If you find it too difficult to hold the full posture, drop your knees to the floor for extra support – just make sure your thighs and torso are in a straight line. And do try to lift your knees again as the challenge progresses – you might surprise yourself!

If your neck hurts, you can always place a block or a stack of books beneath your face and rest your forehead on it while you hold the posture.

How not to do plank

Your biggest foe during this challenge will be your bottom. It will either try to cheat, by being higher than the rest of your body, or it will be lazy, sagging down to create an unwelcome dip in the centre of the posture.

Not sure if you have a cheating or lazy bottom? Then check yourself out in a mirror or ask someone else to tell you if your body is in a straight line.

Action!

Print off the 21-day Plank Challenge practice sheet below, stick it to the fridge, and while you wait for the kettle to boil at the start or end of the day, for example, get on your yoga mat and plank like there’s no tomorrow!

21-Day Plank Challenge Practice Sheet

Keep going, stay focused, and keep your eyes on the prize! What’s the prize? The ability to hold plank for 3 minutes within 3 weeks, a core of steel and all the strength you’ll need for our next big Yin Yang workshop on June 4th – more details coming soon!

And when you waiver, just remember:

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain