LEARNING TO APPRECIATE THE POSES YOU HATE

What the poses you hate have to teach you…

Studio Ghibli Spirited Away frog aka Aogaeru
©Studio GhibliL

A Yogateau friend once jokingly remarked that all yoga poses that begin with the sound “oo” (“ou”) are ones that hurt.

He enumerated the poses by emphasizing the painful “oo” sound, making the asanas sound like guttural exertions: oo-ttanasana, oo-strasana, oo-tkatasana, oo-pavistha konasana.

It cracked me up because every yoga practitioner can list a handful poses they don’t like. For me, that pose is virasana and its reclined evil twin, supta virasana. When I know either of those two poses are on the menu, my system accelerates into fight-or-flight overdrive, and I spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about when the poses are going to materialize in the teacher’s sequence. When I’m finally in the pose, I spent the better part of that time more focused on my chatty brain/monkey mind and hyperactive nervous system than on assimilating the pose’s rewards. Which are many. And which I most certainly need.

But that frog’s alarmed expression? I know it well.

A teacher I used to practice with regularly in Brooklyn, New York refers to the poses we hate as “bathroom break” poses because whenever they come up in class, some of us — ahem — develop an urgent need to pee.

“Virasana? I can’t do Virasana in my condition! I really must use the WC.”

In these instances, the real yoga is not the pose itself; it’s sitting with the weird feelings that bubble up. It’s breathing calmly through discomfort*, backing off of the pose, perhaps examining what the pose may be triggering.

Did I mention breathing? Breathing really helps. So does child’s pose.

—Martine

*And to be clear, we are talking about discomfort, not pain. If you’re in pain, get out of the pose, talk to the teacher, take a child’s pose. You should never be in physical, emotional or psychological pain in any class, yoga or otherwise.