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Poses We Hate

No matter how advanced your practice is, surely there are asanas you'd just as soon avoid. Here, five top teachers divulge their nemeses and what they've learned by practicing them.

By Nina Zolotow and Jason Crandell

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Instead of holding a pose for a long time, do it briefly but move in and out of it frequently in a single practice session. With a difficult asana like Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose), this strategy can help you find opening and ease.

Create a supportive sequence. This can consist of just a few poses, or you can develop a lengthy series that helps prepare your body for a pose you struggle with. You may be able to design such a sequence yourself, or you can get them from yoga books, videos, DVDs, Yoga Journal articles, or workshops that focus on a particular pose or category of poses. If you do take a class that happens to focus on your most troublesome pose or seems to make it more accessible, make sure to write down the sequence immediately after class. You can also ask a teacher to help you piece together a sequence that's tailored exactly for you.

Improve your alignment. Ask your teacher for feedback about your alignment too. You may be surprised to discover how much easier a pose becomes once you improve your alignment. Even if that doesn't happen, it's important to learn proper alignment so you don't fall into bad habits, overworking the places that are already strong or flexible and underworking those that are weak or tight.

Buddy up. Practicing with a friend often creates a relaxed, informal atmosphere that makes the whole experience easier and more fun. And having the moral support of a yoga partner can encourage you to be a bit more daring than usual.

Cultivate playfulness. Bringing curiosity, lightness, and self-acceptance into your practice can have a huge impact. Just as Baron Baptiste did with Garudasana, make peace with the poses that frustrate you rather than fighting to master them.

POSES WE LOVE

As you confront your resistance and fears, finding new ways to tackle previously hated poses, you'll discover the exhilaration and empowerment that come from facing difficulty. But remember that you're only human; taking on more than one or two hard poses at once can be frustrating and might even discourage you from practicing. So be sure to include your favorites as well. Try starting and ending your practice with your most beloved poses, and use them as tiny treats throughout your sequence. After all, these are still the poses that are most likely to lure you to your mat and provide you with the relaxing, comforting, and even joyful experiences that are as much a part of yoga practice as the challenges are.

POSES THEY HATE

If you've ever had a least favorite pose, you're not alone. Even yoga teachers have them, and they've shared their struggles with you.

Patricia Walden on Marichyasana I
(Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I)

When I first started practicing this pose, it was a real struggle. I had natural length in my hamstrings but not in my buttocks or paraspinal muscles, so I was unbalanced; all my weight fell on my straight-leg side, and I had no ability to bend forward. My body felt dense and contracted, like a closed fist, and my breathing was restricted. There was no place in the pose where I could find space and freedom.

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Reader Comments

Louise

I remember when I first started going to Yoga classes..As soon as my teacher announced handstand or some other pose I hated. I would have an urgent need to go to the toilet, have a drink anything to avoid it the task at hand. I now find with practice that all of these poses I talk with equanamity rather than avoidance. For me the change in my bodies ability (these poses arent as challenging as they used to be) the more my mind gave up the struggle as well. although there are some poses I still struggle with there isnt the same resistance to at least try..

Buds-dogma

I can't say I have found any poses that actually frieghten me...just ones that are hard (or initially impossible) to do. First have an expert assess your alignment and be certain you understand the pose. Yoga Journal's in depth descriptions are a tremendous resource. Then work on the source of the problem. If I'm worried about the landing in the event I happen to fall out of a pose, I do something about it. For example, if I think Crow pose might become a face plant, I'll put a folded up towel down where I think an emergency landing pad might come in handy. If I find a pose too challenging, I'll analyze where the problem seems to be. If a muscle is lacking, hit the weight room at the gym to specifically strengthen the neccessary muscles if they've proved to be too weak/puny. Also, work on problem issues in your everyday life, not just in your practivce: To improve balance, try standing on one leg while doing everyday tasks. In stead of sitting on furniture while you're watching TV, get down on the floor and work on opening joints or stretching stubborn tissues by simply holding passive poses that work the problem area. You'll be suprised how much your practice will improve when you actually have the strength and flexibility needed. And, when something does go awry, remember to laugh out loud and give it another try!

Gina

When ever I feel trepidation about practicing any pose I tune in to the fact that because I perceive it as difficult the pose must be exactly what I need to incorporate into my practice. As I mindfully investigate and practice the pose I find that my inner guide eventually soars from the experience. My yoga practice for various reasons since 2002 has been primarily a home based. Between the insightful articles in the Yoga Journal and constant reading I have learned to challenge poses which scare me one at a time and have been rewarded with balance returning to my life.

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