Many advanced yoga postures are considered scary because we don’t consider how to build into them. Of course there is the occasional novice yogi who, with natural flexibility, can easily venture into these challenging poses but they are the exception, not the norm. Most of us need to trust the practice.
Reflecting on your fear
Your yoga practice teaches you more than postures. It helps you assess your own behaviors and attitudes in everyday life. Consider which poses scare you, and ask yourself this:
Why does this pose scare me?
What can I do to make this pose accessible?
What can I learn from this fear I feel?
Keeping these questions in mind as your practice your postures can help you step out of your comfort zone and towards not only a challenging posture, but also one that scares you.
Below are 5 poses that can be scary at first but with a little practice, may become key parts of your practice.
Savasana (or final resting pose) is notoriously one of the most difficult poses to master. It may not challenge your hip flexibility like pigeon or arm strength like crow pose, but it requires you to calm the mind, relax the physical body and keep your focus on the present moment. Savasana takes practice and time to master. Some yoga students are so scared of savasana that they sometimes leave class early to avoid it altogether.
Kurmasana or Tortoise pose can provide an intense hip and shoulder stretch and requires appropriate warming up before entering. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the asana, however, is not the intense hip stretch, but the introspection inward.
Astavakrasana or Eight Angle Pose creates the illusion of floating the legs to one side. Like Crow pose, eight-angle pose requires a certain level of arm and wrist strength, but also an understand of what you need to activate to stay balanced and lifted. To access Eight Angle Pose, work step-by-step to master the way to enter. With a bit of practice, the illusion of the pose that may seem scary can become an accessible reality.
Bakasana or Crow pose is often the first pose yogis attempt when exploring arm balances. While the pose can look impossible from the outside, it is really a matter of distributing your weight so that you are balanced and activating the core and mula bandha (root lock) for additional lift. One of the most difficult fears to overcome when practicing this pose is maintaining your stability to fly instead of falling forward onto your face. To counteract this fear, build up to crow slowly and place a blanket or soft landing service so if you do fall, minimal damage will be done (except of course to your ego).
5. Svarga Dvijasana
Svarga Dvijasana or Bird of Paradise pose is not everyone’s idea of paradise. The pose combines an intense hip opener with a bind, shoulder stretch and one-legged balance that challenges your focus. In order to enter it, the body needs to be warmed up and your mind calm. As with all yoga poses, it takes time to build a solid foundation before you are able to achieve a strong, stable bird of paradise. Do not worry about what you look like- instead, focus on sensation in the pose. Where do you feel stability and balance? Where do you feel struggle? Notice these areas but don’t judge yourself harshly. Instead, remind yourself that is a yoga practice and your peak is personal to you.
Face your fear and step out of your comfort zone
Practicing yoga postures that scare you challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and focus on growth. Remember, in every pose there is a lesson to be learned. Take your time, build yourself up and face your fear head on. You may be surprised how your ability to attempt challenging yoga postures also relates to how you face other challenges in your life.