That Dreaded Pose
We all have or had them...the pose in yoga we dread. It's ironic since yoga's chief mission is to relax you. Yet, we find a way to dread a particular pose. Mention "pigeon" and you can actually see faces cringe. Or, staff pose...seriously? Sit still with engaged muscles and just breathe? I confess, I have only attempted "side crow" because everyone else was doing it. I just didn't like it.
Why do we have that dreaded pose? Is it too physically challenging? Does it mess with our mind? Why should we expend our energy trying it? Does it really matter? Lots of questions lead to one answer via a question: What do you fear?
Failure to get it? Injury or pain? Impatience of practicing without ego based results? Let's stop asking questions and try a new approach of learning.
Start with Pigeon. It's a hip opener. Hips tend to be tight. Muscle tightness is uncomfortable during the process of expansion. Change your approach to the pose. Soften the tightness a bit by not letting your bent knee/hip open so wide. Instead of lying on your arms, stay elevated on the palms. Breathe and enjoy the soft changes without the cringes. Learn unfamiliar nuances of opening versus hating the process of opening.
Fine tune your poses in micro-units. Gently sway in slow motion from side to side to feel the muscular release. Take your time in getting out of the pose. Every move is part of the practice. Totally counter the pose with what feels good. For some, it might be child's pose or Down Dog...whatever feels right...do it. Breathe through it.
Fine tuning a pose is a lot like adjusting the volume to your music or the temperature on the thermostat. It doesn't take much to make a difference. Close your eyes in a pose you instinctively resist and feel what you can change to start to actually like it. Find your middle ground in a pose and move into it a smidgen deeper. Leave room for error. Just like you take your time to select what dish you feel you would enjoy most at a cool restaurant, do the same with each pose. Approach the pose morsel by morsel. No rush to finish...savor it.
Some folks joints are hyper-extended and adjustments to the "standard" stance in a pose needs to be modified. Some have joint replacements, injuries, scoliosis, etc., which affect and change how they should approach a move. No one is the same. Thus, no pose is the same. If a teacher offers no other options of a pose or does not encourage you to follow your intuition...find another teacher. Only you know if a pose feels like it is harmful versus helpful.
Had a student declare they hate Staff Pose. Seems simple. Sit straight, hands firmly placed on ground, chest open, legs engaged, chin down and breathe. Turns out they had knee pain in the right leg from a knee injury. Engaging it hurt. My response: don't lock the knee. Activate everything else, but don't force yourself into a pose. She was surprised to hear my response....then, relaxed in realizing she was in charge of her moves.
Yoga is a practice of a lifetime. For that philosophy maintain a reality, you have to practice with love and respect for your body. Have courage to try the unfamiliar...something new. Keep at it. Transition from dreading a pose to looking forward to feeling the unexpected transitions. But, if pain is present...know to stop. Yoga is not a practice pursuing injuries. It is a practice of being present in the subtle changes within. One day, what was invisible just might become visible.
The last thing you want to dread is yoga. It is a safe haven of the moment. Yoga helps remove the dread of anticipated realities. When you hear your teacher announce the pose you "dread", simply start thinking..."ok...let's see what I can experience now." Tweak it to your ability...allow a wise adjustment if it comes...breathe...and leave the rest on the mat. It really is that simple. No questions asked and the answer comes.
With that all said, I too will re-approach my practice of side crow. There's nothing to dread and only stronger balance of awareness to gain.