There are some yoga poses that immediately come to mind when envisioning time on the mat and within a yoga practice. Warrior II, Reverse Warrior, Wheel, even Boat Pose are often seen in advertising and on social media. These poses are part of our everyday, even if we don’t practice or have an interest in yoga.
And, then there are others that seem just ridiculous. Most of us just want to get in our body and feel good. We find yoga helps. We are not trying to become a contortionist or join the circus. And, more than any other group of postures, Leg Behind the Head Poses often evoke this feeling among my students.
The sense of “Yeah, that’s great, but that would never happen for me,” kind of settles on the group when these postures are introduced. And, I totally get it. It seems like a party trick instead of a pose that offers therapeutic benefits that will positively affect your life and your health.
But, Leg Behind the Head Postures offer so many benefits, as do the postures that help you to eventually achieve them.
Besides the obvious benefit of loosening up the hips, these postures help to open up and heal your lower spine, increase core strength, and loosen up your hamstrings. They are also known to reduce stress levels and boost circulation. They are more than a party trick.
The external rotation of the hip needed to achieve these postures comes easier to me than most. I remember being able to bring the leg behind my head when I was a kid, though I can’t for the life of me understand why I wanted to. I was by no means a gymnast, or at the time, a dancer.
That being said, I still have so much work to do on these postures. They are extremely active, though most people make it look like a passive posture. You drop the leg behind the head and smile. Nope, that’s not it at all. You get the leg behind the head and then work for more. Can you sit up taller to create more space in the spine? Can the leg go further behind the head so it stays there when lifting into an arm balance or working to stand up on one leg as in Goodbye Pose? The work is endless, but it’s fun.
And, as with any advanced asana pose, you have to be playful about the journey and let go of what you believe is possible for you.
Even if you never achieve bringing the leg behind the head, the work towards getting closer to the goal of it, will offer you a ton of healing and a sense of adventure. And, more often than not, you will surprise yourself at what you will be able to accomplish.
So, next time you see a yogi with their leg behind their head, instead of proclaiming, “That would never happen for me,” look at it as something else entirely. It is a posture to promote healing, a long-term goal, and a true possibility for your practice.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski is a yoga instructor and yoga business coach and mentor for yoga teachers. She is the author of the book, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," and has been writing and sharing her yoga experience for the past seven years. Find out more about Tori now.