So I've started doing drop-backs. It's amazing how quickly I've progressed in them. Not saying they're now really nice or anything, but my urdhva dhanurasanas never felt great, so I wasn't expecting to to drop backs so soon. My low back always feels funky in the pose, and I hate it when the teacher says to straighten my legs and shift my chest towards my arms. If I don't do it he'll come and help me and I always feel like I'm about to faint or drown. My neck can never relax in the wheel pose; the neck muscles feel strained whether I try to look up or look down. They refuse to relax no matter how I move my head. Stuff along the spine feels loose, as if the spine will fall apart if I try too hard (but I try hard anyways). Nobel reassured me a little when he told me deep backbends have a spinal alignment effect to them. Not sure if it was Tim Miller or Matthew Sweeney who started the saying, "Backbends are like pancakes. The first two are rubbish." That re-assured me further.
That being said, assisted drop-backs feel a million times safer and easier (psychologically) than attempting drop backs on my own, so kudos to Grimmly and all the people who work on this on their own. I think I sort of tried once at home, and I ended up bending my knees so much I ended up just going into a table top pose instead of a real drop back. Coming back up was like a swim up where I flailed my arms wildly and sort of front crawled my way back to standing, again with super bent knees... I always imagined myself looking like the reverse of Neil doing backbend dodging bullets in the Matrix, except I'm sure it looks a lot dorkier and messier.
Apparently my back is pretty open, so I "don't need to" do hang backs. Actually I just plain can't do them. With the teacher's hands around my waist, for awhile it felt like he was the soul reason I wasn't crashing straight to the floor headfirst since I felt I had zero control over my upper body weight. Coming back up is so much fun with the help of a teacher. A little pull (or pressure into the spine at the low back junction) and I pop right up. But without the teacher I guess I didn't want to look like an idiot doing my front crawl thing in class. I also was really scared of falling back down and landing on my head because my arms wouldn't be ready to catch me or something silly like that.
There are two keys to coming up smoothly: 1. walk the hands as close towards the feet as possible, "past the point where you feel comfortable with placing your hands". 2. Rock back and forth and come up on an inhale while rocking forward towards the feet. So they actually both work, and I've been surprised that some days I can come up on my own. The trick is I have to catch the momentum. If I try to come up at the wrong time during the rock, then I fall back down. My hands did catch me and save me the fate of a head concussion, so my fear was unfounded. If my back feels funny, then I'm not able to walk my hands that close to my feet, and a wide wheel makes coming up impossible.
So now I'm at this inconsistent stage where sometimes I can come up magically on my own no problem, and other times I get stuck in my wheel and can't come up without assistance. Neither the forward bend squish nor the fold itself after the drop backs ever feels long enough, and I can feel my spine screaming "I'm here! Feel my presence!!" at me for the rest of the day. It's not pain.. it's just.. very energized, but not necessarily in a happy or unhappy way. Seriously, who needs a chiropractor if you can just do wheel pose and drop backs? I wonder what chiros think about setu bandhasana and headstands. Setu b. feels super intense right now, probably not from physical strain but from shock. I'm trusting the practice and hoping it'll strengthen my neck and make my neck strain go away. Also hoping matsyasana and uttana padasana will strengthen my mid and low back, because I do not feel peace and calm in these two poses.
Anyways, just a boring recording my practice report. I hope the poses I mention will get easier and my spine will thank me later on. Right now it's questioning what the heck I'm doing to it and the rational brain isn't really sure if what I'm practicing is exactly healthy for my body. I kind of have to have faith, keep at it for a few months and then see what happens.