This past 3-day weekend was somewhat active for me; I went skiing on Saturday, did a 90-minute hot yoga class on Sunday, and also attended a 75-minute hot yoga class on Monday. Before Monday's class I asked the instructor to assist me in getting into some of the postures, as even with the heat I'm still not very "bendy". She knows what to do--push, pull, twist, whatever is necessary. My body will take it.
One of the postures (#22 here) requires a fairly significant back bend, which I was close to achieving. Just before reaching my ankles with my hands, though, my instructor grabbed my hands, spread my arms behind me, and I think put her foot in my back, arching me into an exaggerated "I'm the king of the world!" pose.
Let's take a break at this juncture of our story and talk about an ancient Roman method of execution, crucifixion. What's, uh, interesting about crucifixion is the way you actually die. The whole point of crucifixion was the painful torture of it, but people could survive that as well as the blood loss. No, the way you died, generally, was the day wore on and you couldn't be left up there at night, so they took the Roman equivalent of a 2x4 and broke your legs. This caused you to arch forward because you couldn't stand up straight, and in that position you suffocated. That's how you died in crucifixion, you suffocated. One of the many novel things about Jesus' crucifixion was that the guards did not have to break his legs, he was dead already. Now back to my yoga class.
With my arms spread back, and my weight pushed forward, I couldn't breath! I could barely squeeze out "that's enough", so she didn't push any more, but I still couldn't get air. I didn't panic, though, knowing that the posture would last only a few more seconds, so I stuck it out, but it was a remarkable experience.
I remember when I first learned about the suffocation aspect of crucifixion, I didn't believe it. Put your arms behind you and try it, you can't replicate it. So while intellectually I knew what was supposed to happen, my experience told me that it just wasn't so.
I'm a believer now.