Learning to Love the Pose You Love to Loathe
If you have a yoga asana practice you most likely can answer the following questions...
Which yoga pose do you really love?
This is the pose that you could just stay in all day. It’s the pose that you are the first one into after it is called out in class. It’s the pose that you might ask someone to take a picture of you in to put as your Facebook profile picture.
Which yoga pose do you really loathe?
This is the pose whose name you dread hearing in any given class. This is the pose that you delay going into or maybe even conveniently have to leave the room for a bathroom break the moment you hear its name. It’s the pose that might make you feel agitated, irritated, frustrated or maybe even angry. Maybe you even lose your connection to the breath in this pose. Maybe it even brings up feelings of incompetence, failure or competition.
As yogis, we understand that we are supposed to remain equanimous throughout the practice, not forming any kind of attachment, negative or positive, to any part of the practice. But the truth is that we all have poses that make us feel really good just as we have poses that make us feel really uncomfortable. There are those poses that just become synonymous with discomfort, be it physical, mental or emotional. For me, it’s parivrtta trikonasana. Just thinking about it now invokes a reaction similar to the one that I experience when I am actually in the pose.
Chances are, the poses that create discomfort are the ones that bring us face to face with our stuff. They place us right up against the proverbial edge. Sometimes when I am in revolved triangle I actually feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff with my toes dangling over the edge, body leaning slightly forward, knowing that just a soft breeze would send me toppling over.
We love to loathe the poses that make us uncomfortable. It’s so easy to dislike the poses that are “hard” for us. But, perhaps we can transform this habitual “I hate this pose, I hate this pose, I hate this pose” reaction into something that is more expansive and beautiful. Instead of spending the time in these poses wishing it would just hurry up and end, perhaps we can allow it to be a time of discovery and inquiry, finding something really sweet deep within it.
Consider this: Your reaction can determine the condition of the experience that you have in any pose (which is always just a metaphor for the experience of our lives off of the mat).
Now consider this: You can choose your reaction.
It’s much like those Choose Your Own Adventure books. However, here we may not have any control over what the adventure is, but we what we can control how we react within it.
Next time you find yourself in the pose that you love to loathe, notice your reaction to it. This practice is all about noticing. So, notice your response to it. Then gently, lovingly and compassionately shift your focus. Instead of pushing the pose away, draw yourself deeper into it. Instead of reacting with “ugh, I hate this pose” try something along the lines of “I accept that I am in this pose and I will allow this to be a time of discovery.”
I believe that the poses that are the most difficult, the most challenging, for us are the ones that are the most full of opportunities to discover something about ourselves. In these moments of discomfort, we can learn so much about our attachments and avoidances. We learn so much about what we are inclined to cling to and that which sends us running.
Instead of loathing these poses, we can learn to love them by recognizing them as some of our greatest teachers. Perhaps, over time, we can even cultivate gratitude for all that they are and all that they reveal to us. The pose really does just want to be your friend. It may not be the easiest friend to get along with, but I guarantee that you will learn so much about yourself by inviting this friendship into your life. Allow it to be the friend that it is, embrace and nurture it for exactly what it is, and just notice what happens.