Listen in to conversations after any yoga session, and we’re almost guaranteed to hear someone discussing this or that yoga pose that they hate and wish they never need to do again – ever.
But why is it that there are certain yoga poses that we just dread? We can feel them coming, and start to hope the instructor isn’t going to do it this time. Then we inwardly cringe when the instructor even mentions that posture’s name. Simply recognising our reaction and can tell us a great deal not only about our physical abilities but also a great deal about our character and our approach to difficulties, adversity and failure. We should all observe our approach to the poses we hate. Is our approach to put in little effort and avoid doing the pose properly or try to think more about why we dislike it, to figure out if we’re doing it wrong, or if we need to put in a little more effort to get past this challenge.
Whatever our approach to the poses we dislike, simply identifying which specific poses these are can tell us a lot about how to improve our practice.
It hurts too much – I don’t want to do it.
For most of us at least, the resistance to the pose doesn’t really have anything to do with the technicalities of the pose – it’s just about ourselves. The biggest resistance to trying a pose is because we know its going to hurt and challenge us. Some of the most dreaded poses are those that require back muscle strength, since these are some of our least developed and worked muscles groups. As soon as we lie down on our stomachs, we start to dread the muscle burn that is about to come.
But if a pose is hurting because our muscles are too weak, then the only way to get past it is to work those muscles and strengthen them. If a pose is hurting because of the stretch, then the only way to get past it is to relax, extend and stretch those muscles and joints. With a little work we will eventually overcome that particular challenge, and something else will become our new dreaded pose.
It’s too difficult, I just can’t do it.
Another common reason for wishing to avoid certain poses is because we’re convinced it’s too difficult for us. But for basic and intermediate poses, there are very few poses that are so difficult that we just can do them. Fair enough doing the full pose as the instruction directs may be beyond your current abilities, but with effective instruction, you should be able to find part of the pose, or a variation of the full pose that you can attempt. If we can’t manage a full unsupported backbend, then it’s a supported backbend or a more gentle backward stretch.
They call it a yoga practice
Whatever our reasons for disliking a pose, avoiding the pose completely is certainly not going to help in any way. If we don’t try to make the pose today, we certainly won’t be able to do it tomorrow either. Only by recognising our boundaries and limits of our abilities can work at extending those boundaries, only by extending our boundaries do we develop and improve our yoga – or anything else in life. Trying, trying properly and trying frequently are all essential elements of our development. No-one can be expected to be a master of every pose, we all have areas we can work on. With quick look around your yoga studio you see people that are good at forward bends, those that are good at back bends, those that have open hips and those that have strong upper body and arms. Its rare to find people that are equally good at every aspect. And nobody is perfect, the finished article – that’s why we call it a yoga practice.
As clichéd as it sounds, yoga really is a journey of discovery and development, physically, mentally and if you allow it, spiritually. The first big step in our development journey is understanding our abilities are right now. By bringing awareness to our practice we can start to know where our limitations are and focus on those areas as key development points within a balanced practice. This is the start of the journey. The rest of the journey is the continued and systematic extension of those boundaries. And the destination, the goal of all this effort? The ongoing and continued improvement of our physical, mental and spiritual health.
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