I love standing bow pose. I love the balance of it as you reach forward and kick backward simultaneously. I like the feeling of grace as you hold your chest up high and proud, but bend your body down to exercise your heart. I feel strong in this posture even if my body sometimes struggles through it.
Last week in class, the teacher had us all take a step back in this posture so that we could move forward in a better way. Many of us were bending forward in the fuller expression of the posture, but our hips were not aligned. She had us stay straight up, kicking and reaching but in an upright position allowing our hips to remain parallel to the front mirror. In only the final seconds did she have us bend forward to exercise the heart. Not many of us could bend down as far with our hips in this proper alignment, but we were doing it the right way and getting greater benefits. I certainly felt a deeper stretch in my hips and back and a more stringent call on my abs to support my body.
I have been trying to replicate this process in my practice since that class. I feel the difference in my body, but I also see the difference in the mirror. My posture is not as pretty as it once was, not as fully extended, but I have decided not to care. I know I am getting the benefits and that is the point. It will be pretty again, although it might take a while. Doing it the right way to get the health benefits is more important than the short-lived gratification of a pretty posture looking back at me in the mirror.
That got me thinking about how important the ability to go back to move forward is, both on and off the mat. It requires discipline, self awareness, and the ability to delay gratification, many of the things needed for success generally. It is something I am trying to teach my school-aged children. For example, I make them recopy messy homework assignments so they are neater and better organized. Going back (recopying) to move forward (learning how to do neat and organized homework). While they are not thanking me for this now (at all!), I hope that longer term, they will be glad they have the skill and discipline required to do homework properly, so they get the full benefits, just like I hope to do in standing bow.
Fellow yogis, do you have a posture where you need to go back to move forward?