Friday, June 23, 2006

Look at me way up high, Suddenly here am I, I'm flying!

On Father's Day Mars and I did our first Flying Forward Bend. We weren't alone. There were ten other couples - nine of them also neophytes. And there were Elysabeth and Rex who showed us all how to do it.

Actually they did much more than that.

First Elysabeth got on top and directed me on how to do it with her. Then Rex got on the bottom and I learned what it felt like to be in the upper position. Then, with Rex's guidance, Mars got on top and we did it together.

Partner Yoga is a little like the Cirque de Soleil - without frenetic music. Two people do things that (a) are impossible to do by themselves and (b) look impossible to do under any circumstances.

Which may be the point of the whole exercise anyway. Or at least it was for me. Too bad I didn't know that when we had to tell what our intentions were.

This ritual frequently happens at the beginning of Yoga classes. Usually each participant is asked to just think about what they hope to get out of that day's class. In this workshop, instead of keeping our intention private and (at least in my case) unformulated, we had to go around the room and tell our fellow students what it was.

At this point we were sitting in a small circle - self organized in that traditional boy-girl-boy-girl setup that couples seem to instinctively adopt when asked to arrange themselves into that configuration.

Rex was first to tell his intention and then, thankfully, the baton was passed left to the female half of the adjacent couple. I sighed relief internally and snuck a glance around the room at the ten other guys - most of who seemed to share my easing in tension. I mean its not that guys don't have intentions - of course we do - the path to Hell isn't paved with nothing. We just don't articulate them as well as, for example, our female partners at whose request most of us were sitting in this circle to begin with.

I was here because (a) Mars had given me this class as a Father's Day present, (b) it would be a new experience that we would do together, (c) I (presumably) would get to touch her (maybe even a lot), and (d) do some Yoga - all of which seemed like good things to me. The gift (a) was the cause of me being here. The others (b, c, and d) were possible reasons that flashed through my mind (along with "it was too hot for golf") as I was frantically trying to come up with a good Yoga-sounding intention.

But mostly I was hoping that Mars would say something that would allow me to say "Yeah - What she say! Doubled!"

Unlike us, married thirty-nine years plus a few more together, most of the couples seemed to be relatively new to their partnering arrangement and were looking to "connect". Or at least the women were. The few men that were connecting seemed to be verbalizing a more Yoga-savvy version of "Yeah - What she say! Doubled!"

All too soon it came to be our turn and Mars mentioned "doing something different for Father's Day" and I fumbled through "trying a new experience together" - both of which must have been acceptable intentions because we weren't asked to leave either the circle or the class.

(This photo is copyrighted and taken from the book "The
Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga". Used with permission from the authors.)

Next came the demo.

Elysabeth and Rex didn't say much about what they were about to do. They just turned on some surprisingly up-tempo New Age music, sat back to back, and began twisting and stretching themselves, and each other, with a dizzying array of hand-to-hand, hand-to-wrist, hand-to-rib cage, hand to you-name-it movements.

Then he lay prone and she bent him backwards with the aid of various methods for holding him down - foot on foot, sitting on legs, etc.

Next, using a handheld strap, they sat facing each other, placed foot sole to foot sole, lifted their legs up straight, and leaned back to form a living, surprisingly stable, "W".

At this point I figured that this demo was actually a performance of the more outre possibilities of Partner Yoga. Then they did the Flying Forward Bend, first with her on top, then him, and now I was convinced that basically none of what we had just seen were we about to attempt.


They had shown us the "foundation". Now we were to do it.

And we did. In spite of our individual and collective physical limitations. In spite of the ninety plus degree heat in the room. In spite of the fact that if we had thought about any of these movements while we were doing them we would have immediately realized that we weren't really doing them because they simply couldn't be done.

And then it was time to fly.

(This photo is copyrighted and taken from the book "The
Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga". Used with permission from the authors.)

Mars and I decided for various reasons not to attempt it with me on top. But try as we might we just couldn't get her up into the air. (I say "we" because Elysabeth and Rex had told us that this was not a matter of the bottom lifting the top but rather of the lifter and liftee together reaching a point of balance where they both coordinate to get the flyer up with minimal effort from the holder.)

We asked for help.

First, while Mars observed, Elysabeth settled her hipbones onto the bottoms of my feet, leaned forward and with amazingly little effort on my part I straightened my bent legs and held her aloft. Next Rex guided my pelvic area onto his soles and I too soared.

And then the denouement - with Rex's verbal guidance Mars and I found the right balance point to allow us to jointly elevate her off of the floor and into the yogic stratosphere. Twice!

To me one of the best things about having the right partner is that you become quite brave about trying new, even unthinkable things, as long as you are doing them together.

So remember - and feel free to use this as your own intention - it's actually quite easy to pick up a really good-looking woman at a Partner Yoga workshop.

No comments: