Picture this: You’re in the thick of your yoga practice for the day. The teacher instructs you to move into a posture – let’s say Chaturanga, or maybe even Lunge Warrior. And, your immediate reaction to the instruction is to cringe at the words coming out of their mouth. Maybe you groan a bit. Or, your brain explodes with every curse word in the book.
But, now that you’re in this dreaded posture all you can do is count the moments until it’s over. You never truly arrive in it because you are so damn ready to move on to whatever comes next… because anything is better than this. It hurts. It’s super uncomfortable. It’s far from your favorite.
Don’t worry if this sounds so insanely familiar to you because I’ve been there, too. And, I think anybody that says this hasn’t happened to them at some point in their practice is LYING.
The people attracted to a rigorous yoga practice that kicks your butt on the daily are going to have these moments. And, if you didn’t have them, you probably would have moved on to a different activity long ago. (Maybe take up Zumba? Or, jump on the Peloton bandwagon? Nope. Let’s just go back to running…)
It’s the challenge that brings us back to our mat again and again, don’t you think?
I used to HATE Chaturanga. If I went to a class where we Chaturanga-ed more than my, at the time, super wimpy arms could handle it, I’d start to see red. And, then without a doubt I’d find myself in this whole woe-is-me-yoga-is-too-hard way of thinking.
Let me tell you, that kind of thinking… sucks. And, I wanted to change that as soon as possible. It was a CHALLENGE. And, I could either rise to it or only go to classes and have experiences that avoided this posture, or anything like it (which is about fifty percent of all yoga asana).
But, I know you are just like me. Avoiding something just because it’s uncomfortable is not going to work. It bothered me for a reason (because I had zero upper body strength at the time and I hated to feel and look like I couldn’t do it.)
So, I saw it as a sign. It was time to work for something new within my practice.
It took years of working on my arm balances and inversions (tumbling to the floor and face planting along the way), getting comfortable in Down Dog, and starting to understand that my ribs need to be closed as much as possible throughout my practice and abs engaged whenever I could engage them.
It was hard and uncomfortable. None of this stuff came easy to me.
So now, what makes me proud, after all of this time, is how my body and mind respond to the word, "Chaturanga."
There’s zero red. There’s zero whine. There’s just moving through Chaturanga.
I accepted the challenge and it changed me for the better. It helped to quiet that victim-y voice in my head, not just while in the posture, but in pretty much every other situation in my life where it would most likely show up (traffic jams, waiting in lines, internet outages, 2020… need I go on?).
A few years ago, I was in a three-day teacher training intensive and we all had to go around the room and tell everyone the posture we disliked the most. And, I couldn’t come up with one.
Because through the years, even though certain postures are difficult, or at times damn near impossible, they each still have a place in my practice.
I don’t dislike any postures, but there sure are postures that when I’m in them I’m not exactly calling them my best friend either. So, was I lying? No. But, I think the question was worded incorrectly. If the question was: Which posture do you struggle with the most? I would have been there for ten minutes giving a dramatic monologue on the matter.
And, I want to get you in that place, too. Where you don’t hate any posture, but see instead what it’s offering you in the practicing of it.
Your Yoga for the Day:
So, right now I want you to think of posture you struggle with the most. And, maybe even jot down a few words that describe how it makes you feel when it comes up in your practice. Do you whine? Or, send mental death threats to your instructor? Do you always give up and wait for the class to move on to something else? Don’t judge what happens, it’s all fine. Just write it down as the truth of what happens for you right now.
Now, I want you to think about how to improve this situation because you can. You could ask the instructor more about the posture before or after class. You could book a private session to dig deeper into it. You could attend a workshop where this posture will be taught slowly and with intention. You could Google and YouTube the crap out of it. Or, right now come up with a few related postures that don’t affect you as much and decide to study them a bit more, adding them into your practice daily.
I promise it will get better.
And, we’ve all been there. Yes – even the yoga goddess that never misses a class and seems to have it all together, popping into handstands on Instagram like its no biggie. She’s totally been there, too.
And, if you asked her, she’s cheering you on and knowing you will get to the other side of this. Because that’s why we practice – the challenge of it calls us to be greater. It calls us to be more of our best, highest Self. And, whoa, this world… needs that.
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Tori Hicks-Glogowski is an online yoga instructor for real people looking to do extraordinary things. On her own mat for well over fifteen years, Tori works to inspire others to develop a life long practice through her classes, workshops, in-person events, and retreats. Find out more about Tori now.