When the pose seems like an enemy
Once when I was teaching, one woman looked up at me with alarm and said, “You’re not going to make us do that pigeon pose, are you?”
Everyone laughed, including me, but I could relate. Here’s a secret about yoga: you won’t like every pose.
Pigeon was that woman’s nemesis pose–that one pose that you dread. The pose that feels like your archenemy. You hate it. You’ll do anything to avoid it, even walk out of a class. You’ll complain to the teacher about it. Yeah, I get it. We all feel that way about at least one pose.
I’ve written about how Extended Angle was my nemesis pose for a long time. Then it was Bow pose. Then Warrior III, then, for a while, Warrior II. Flip Dog is another one I hated.
But here’s the thing about your Nemesis pose: you should practice it more often. Because if you hate it, then the pose is trying to teach you something.
I know that isn’t what you want to hear. You probably expect the yoga teacher to say, “Oh, give yourself a break and skip that one today! No judgement!”
You should practice it more often. But don’t grit your teeth and think about how much you hate it. Instead, take a step back and look at what’s happening. Why do you hate the pose? How can you modify it? What is the lesson?
I never liked Bow pose (Dhanurasana) because it was hard. It took a lot of effort for me to be in that pose. And sometimes it made my knees hurt. Then I always needed a child’s pose afterwards, to release my back, and instructors didn’t always cue it. I also struggled with my ego in this pose–I wanted my Bow pose to look good! So I pushed harder. And I hated it.
Here is what I learned, once I was able to step back and gain some perspective.
The pose was hard, yes, because it’s a challenging pose. I practiced other poses to help me build strength, like Flying Locust.
I learned the modification to help my knees. Instead of holding the tops of my feet and pointing my toes, I flexed my feet and held my ankles. It made a huge difference for my knees.
I learned to come into Child’s pose after Bow no matter what the instructor cued. Because Child’s pose was best for my body, not flowing through another Vinyasa or going straight to Downdog.
I backed out of the pose a little. Instead of trying hard to make it look good and impress everyone, I dialed it back. I focused on my breath more. I gave myself permission to come out of the pose when I was ready, not when the instructor cued it.
The lesson from Bow pose for me was “let go of the ego.” This is much easier said than done.
Think about your nemesis pose. What can you learn from it? How can you make peace with that pose?