Poses We Hate
But I kept practicing Marichyasana I very regularly as part of a traditional forward-bending sequence. I would start with a modified version, sitting up on a blanket and extending my arms forward rather than clasping them behind me. This made it easier to elongate my waist and rib cage. I would repeat this version briefly two or three times on each side; because I had so much physical and mental resistance, repeating it was better than holding it for a long time. When I would finally come into the full pose with the clasp later in the practice session, it would be easier because of all the preparation I had done.
After about 10 years, I finally began to feel in Marichyasana the internal spaciousness and surrender that I love. Now it is one of my favorite forward bends. I think when you work through any difficult situation, it is a form of tapas [discipline and purification] and builds confidence and mental strength. You've taken on something really challenging and come out on the other side.
Barbara Benagh on Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
For many years, Shoulderstand was more than frustrating—it was a horror. I had old shoulder, collarbone, and neck injuries from an auto wreck, and even though I practiced the pose using a mountain of blankets, sometimes I'd still have episodes of intense neck pain. One day in class, I had only one blanket to use when my teacher said "Shoulderstand," and I felt a huge wave of anxiety. How would I do it without my Band-Aid blankets? Later, in a different class, I received a terrible Shoulderstand adjustment, had a temper tantrum, and decided to divorce the pose forever.
Shoulderstand continues to be difficult for me, but I finally feel at home while practicing it. It has taught me that you can try to avoid things, but ultimately they lie in wait for you. And it has also taught me that it's often best to walk away from something you're struggling with, chew on it, and return with a clearer perspective.
When I do Purvottanasana, I tend to feel compression around my sacrum. To avoid this, I have to work really hard to elongate my lower back and internally rotate my thighs to broaden my sacral area. Even when I do that work, I can't ground my feet well because my calves are so puny. And without that foundation, I can't lift my pelvis high enough to get a good opening in my front body. And the energy flow of the pose— it just feels so stuck. I did Purvottanasana almost every day for 10 years as part of the Ashtanga primary series, and it got incrementally easier, but I never really had a breakthrough.