Tip Tuesday: Dealing with Your Dreaded Yoga Pose

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

You know that yoga pose you love to hate? We all have them.

I hate handstand. It is probably the most challenging yoga pose for me. When I started doing yoga, handstand prep made my wrists sore and I couldn’t yet kick up to a handstand at the wall without help. Eventually I got to kicking up, but I think I’m on the lifetime plan for ever balancing without the wall. I get scared kicking up without a wall nearby. Even though I can do all sorts of advanced arm balances and seemingly harder poses, I still can’t balance more than a few seconds before toppling over. Maddening!

I used to dread having to do handstand in class. I would watch as several students in the class found their way up to handstand in the middle of the room and fume that I wasn’t one of them. Every plop down of my feet falling out of handstand seemed to drive home my defeat.

At a certain point, I realized that I could continue to dread handstand or I could set out to conquer it. Here’s a few steps for dealing with a dreaded pose:

1) Do it every time you practice yoga. Frustratingly, avoiding the pose doesn’t diminish the fear. My teacher Ana Forrest tells a story of being afraid of jumping off a high ledge into the water. The only way to deal with it was to jump off it, get back out, and jump off again. The fear didn’t go away, she relates, but it stopped having control over her. When you practice the pose every day, it loses more and more of its power over you. There’s no worry and dread about if you’re going to do it, because you know you are going to do it every time you’re on the mat. It gradually becomes another pose you do.

I made the commitment to try a handstand anytime I practiced, even if that meant just kicking up to handstand at the beginning or end of class. In my home practice, it’s become an automatic part of what I do. It still frustrates me to no end, but it hasn’t halted my determination

2) Breathe while you’re doing it. Really, not breathing when you’re trying to do anything just makes it infinitely harder.

3) Laugh about it. I now joke that I have mastered the art of flipping over into a backbend from a handstand for all the times my legs have unintentionally flipped over.

4) Congratulate yourselfWhatever the result is, take a moment to congratulate yourself for trying something difficult. Acknowledge that you’re facing up to a challenge. This is a tough thing to do. On the days when I’ve done nothing except fall over endlessly, it’s particularly hard to give myself anything more than disgust. But I try to remind myself that my power comes from continually getting back up and trying again.

5) Let go of the goal. Now that doesn’t mean stop trying. I’m certainly going to keep trying to balance in handstand and practice different techniques to do so. Letting go means that I don’t equate my skills as a yogi with whether or not I can do a handstand. I can admire another student balancing without oozing with envy and self-frustration (ok, most of the time…) When I focus more on what I’ve found to like about handstand (how it brings my energy up), I find I judge myself less when I try the pose. Ironically enough, the times I’ve done handstand while talking to someone or not thinking about it as much have been the times I’ve managed to hold the pose the longest.

I invite you to try these techniques for that dreaded pose of yours. I’ll be right there with you, kicking up. Again. And again.





Wind Horse Conference! PS: I’m Scared

It’s hard for me to believe that it is mere days before I leave for the Wind Horse Conference, the first ever Forrest Yoga conference. I’m going to get to meet up with old friends, connect with many people who I’ve only heard of or met online, and take classes with senior teachers that I’ve always wanted to learn from. It’s amazing and I am excited.

And I’m scared.

Perhaps it would be logical that I would be scared about all the yoga that I’m going to be doing: three 2-hour workshops a day. But after completing Ana’s foundation and advanced teacher training, this amount of yoga seems like small potatoes by comparison.

No, what has me scared is being around so many people all day, all evening, and all weekend long. Which doesn’t make much sense. After all, I’m a very outgoing person. I get really energized from being around people. Plus, I was around people all day in the aforementioned intense and rigorous 24-day foundation training. But here’s the difference: at the end of each training day, I could go home and be alone if I wanted to. At Wind Horse, there’s dinner and evening ceremonies each night. Everyone stays in the lodges. That means people are around me for a long time.

Even when I’m having a great time in social situations, there’s this rising sensation in me that is wary of having it go on too long.  At a certain point, part of me wants to go escape and be in a little hole all by myself. There’s my fear that if others were to be around me for too long they’d see right through to the real me. Then maybe no one would want me around. They’d be shaking their heads that they could ever have had such a false, favorable impression of me.

I realize how ridiculous a lot of this sounds as I put it in writing. Still it remains a very real fear in me. Since Forrest Yoga is all about facing up to what we fear, this conference is an opportunity to face up to what scares me.

While I was thinking about the conference, I got curious and looked into the Native American tale about the Wind Horse. It’s a beautiful story, but there was one part that struck a cord in me:

The Boy, who had no name, could not believe that this beautiful Horse would come to him as a friend. All his life he had lived alone, for with his bad leg no one wanted him. As he rode the wind on the horse, he could feel the good feeling that Wind Horse felt. It was as if he were whole and that he was with family.

It occurred to me that in spite of my fears, this beautiful Wind Horse, like the Wind Horse of legend, has come to me as a friend. I will be with family: the Forrest Yoga community. And I can feel the good feeling it is to be a part of it.