Some postures take longer to learn than others…and this one is killing me. Quick recap: forearm balance, fold legs into lotus, lower legs to arms and hold in a weird arm-balance-on-the-forearms position and then…and THEN…lift back up, straighten legs, jump back.
That sh*t is hard. I've been doing handstand press-ups for a few years and yet the strength to exit the posture continue to elude me. It has to be one of—if not the—most strength-based posture in the Ashtanga system (any series).
But I'm figuring it out.
Gregor Maehle's book on the Intermediate Series breaks this one down into five or so stages. The gist of the approach is to only lower as far as you can and still get back up after five breaths, which will eventually give the strength to do the full posture. I really like this approach better than the traditional Mysore approach of collapsing into the posture and needing a strong assist to get back out.
In part, I like the former better because I don't always have an assist available, but mostly I like it because I think it actually teaches the posture more effectively. Collapsing only leads to panic and reaction; the discipline of the second approach really makes me think about what's going on, and to notice the subtleties happening during the lower down, especially the shifts in balance. This is crucial, because all of those things have to happen in reverse to exit the posture.
There is something entirely different about the posture because you are balancing and lifting on the forearms instead of the hands. On the hands, with the arms straight, so much of the integrity of the body is supported in the arm bones, in that part of the skeleton being lined up and locked. But the with elbows bent at 90° or more, the act of being held off the floor is essentially performed by the triceps. Yikes.
And yet, it is pure bliss to work and work and work. Primary Series came easily, so it wasn't until Intermediate that I really became acquainted with the essence of Ashtanga: invest in the process, disregard results. With postures this difficult, there is little other choice.