I recently taught a class where we did purvottanasana and viparita dandasana on the chair. Having come back from studying in Pune I no longer feel any back stiffness or necessarily need to twist out my back after practicing back bends (though I still do in order to practice safely). One older woman who comes regularly to classes and is pretty fit came up from the viparita dandasana on the chair with an awful pain in her lower back.
Twisting till the end of class I asked her if she has always had low back pain and if she practices back bends. She replied that it came and went, it was just stiff and she didn't really like practicing back bends. It was then I had a vision of her low back as a dry, parched place. I told her that because her low back was so stiff she should practice supported back bends little by little to increase the fluidity or rasa in that area. When it was full of rasa or fluidity back bends would come much easier and she would have less stiffness and pain in that area. She seemed to understand my picture I tried to create about giving movement to her lower back.
Often times the stiffest places I encounter in people are in the lower back and knees. Places such as the neck/shoulders and hips tend to be more tight or hard than stiff. There is a difference. Imagine that the stiffness is caused by dryness in that particular area and it needs rasa or juice to move through and keep the prana or life force flowing through the area. Without this rasa the prana would flow but sucked dry as though moving through a desert. If there is no rain to keep soil moist how will any life come out of it?
Similarly, the areas that are usually tight such as neck/shoulders and hips are areas where there is not dryness but a block. An accumulation, if you will, of a rock pile amidst the soil not allowing for water to generously pass through. This tightness needs practice as well not to create rasa but to breakup accumulations which do not allow the prana or life force to move freely through that area. In eastern medicine disease or pain is caused by the inability of our prana or chi or life force to move throughout the body. This is why we practice asanas or physical postures. In order to keep our bed of soil moist without any hindrance from rocks.
While there are different types of discomforts we may initially feel, a huge benefit of physical postures is the rasa or juice of life to flow throughout our bodies.
©Amita Bhagat 2013