Recently a student in one of my classes looked anything but relaxed in Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). I tried to cajole him indirectly with a reminder to the entire class that sometimes we encounter poses that seem far from calming, but become more accessible with practice and patience.
Still, I could tell he was counting the seconds until it was over. I used to do the same thing for tricky poses years ago (Warrior 2!), and every now and again, I catch myself doing it when I’m holding a particularly challenging pose for what feels like an inordinately long time.
Does Any Kid Really Like Eating Vegetables?
As much as I’d like to say that I love ALL yoga poses, I still tend to avoid a few in my home practice (Frog!). And when I encounter my not-so-favorite yoga poses in a group class, it’s all I can do to stop groaning out loud.
I liken this to eating your veggies when you were a kid. You were told that veggies are good for you and someday you might actually like them. And as your parents looked on, you ate your veggies, knowing that as soon as they turned away, you’d stuff the remainders in a napkin to dispose of later.
The same can happen in the asana room. Here, the yoga instructor takes on the role of your parents, and just like at the dinner table, you might try to sneak past a yoga veggie or two (Child’s Pose never looked so tempting), but you could be missing out on the benefits of a full helping.
A Lesson From The Yoga Sutras
One of my favorite sutras is a simple reminder: sthira sukham asanam (2:46) loosely translated to “The posture should be steady and comfortable.”
In yoga, our aim is to cultivate a balance between effort and ease where we can be in almost any pose, breathing smoothly with minimal strain. Ultimately, this aim merges an underlying strength with an overlying ease. You can witness this kind of ease when you look at pictures of yogis who have serene expressions on their faces (and hopefully they feel it, too).
Ultimately, who would want to practice yoga if your face is screwed up in agony all the time, right? This didn’t come by accident, however. It takes time and practice to nurture that kind of serenity in particularly challenging poses like Pigeon or any others that come to your mind.
Don’t Throw The Yoga Veggies Out!
The irony here is that the poses you hate are probably the ones that can teach you the most about yourself. So take a moment to consider your most challenging pose, and see what you can do to create a more happy relationship.
On your mat, pause and think about how you can cultivate a true sense of comfort as you work into the posture. Remember you don’t always have to go for the fullest expression, just what your body is capable of that day. Plus, don’t be afraid to try the pose with the help of props or alternative variations—think of it as adding a little spice to your veggie platter.
And after you’ve attempted the pose, take a moment to congratulate yourself for trying and for what you did accomplish, which is a lot! This acknowledgement will help you maintain your commitment to your exploration.
Sometimes it just takes patience and faith in yourself and in the power of these yoga veggies before you can start to balance effort with ease. And ultimately, with practice, these “hateful” poses can turn into bearable, even lovable poses, which will help you grow on and off the mat. Good luck on the journey!