I Can Do Fancy Yoga Poses; I Have No Problems

Since the age of 16, I have been practicing challenging yoga poses, and my life has been devoid of problems ever since. I have never been poor, issued a parking ticket, dumped on my ass by someone I loved, or woken up with a massive zit on my nose.  I am unfamiliar with backstabbing co-workers, road rage, and the ire that Sarah Palin inspires in so many of my friends.
What’s the big deal you guys?  If you can do fancy yoga poses, she won’t bother you at all.  In fact, you might think she’s kind of charming.  Maybe even a savant . . .
Do you believe me? Of course not!  (A savant?  Seriously, people . . . Give me a bit more credit).

Intricate yoga poses are fun, require focus, and cultivate great flexibility and strength; however, they do little to improve the quality of our lives.  They cannot stave off illness or hardship, and the intrinsic value of, say, hanumanasana (shown above) is no greater than that of sivasana (below).

So, why bother?

Challenging yoga poses are useful because they allow yogis to practice being in challenging life moments (however small and controlled, as they are on a yoga mat) with courage and compassion.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking that the flashy pose is the goal.  Don’t be fooled, friends!

All yoga poses serve the same greater purpose: to prepare the body for meditation and thus, samadhi, the superconscious state and eighth and final “limb” of the yogic path.  Instead of feeling defeated because we can’t touch our toes or balance on our hands (check out my near faceplant below), we should see these “experiments” as blessings.

Rather than curse tight hamstrings, what if we viewed them as a fond nod to our active lifestyles, spent running, cycling, and simply living in motion?  What if faulty balance became a luxurious opportunity to recommit to quieting the mind?  And, gravity defying arm balances helped us to look fear and physics in the face and say, “Yes, I see you, but I am going to try anyway.”

Which asanas challenge you?  Why are they difficult (or scary, or frustrating)?  And, how can this challenge help you elsewhere in life?

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  • Nicole

    I find arm balances to be challenging yet completely empowering and uplifting – the latter of course only those that I know I can do, haha. The ones I can't do yet (aka your near faceplant pose), well, I see them as a goal I will eventually achieve. These challenging poses give me confidence that I can trust my body, my drishti, and my mind. They also give me confidence I need off my mat.

    There are some that pose (no pun intended) challenges in a totally different way. After a deabilitating back injury a few years ago, I have yet to get back up into headstand or handstand or any version of either due to paralyzing fear. These challenges hurt my confidence that the arm balances I mention above worked so hard to cultivate. They also do nothing for my lovely characteristic of being a perfectionist. I'm working very hard to get back up into inversions that so many people use for meditation and strength, and I'm hoping one day (sooner rather than later), my confidence will outwin my fear.

  • Ejiro O.

    Good one! Your near faceplant actually looks like a pose by itself. I love the arm balances because they help me challenge preconcieved notions of what I can and cannot do, but you are right, no one pose is better than another because of the level of difficulty.

  • Anonymous

    Sigh. I'm a social liberal but a fiscal conservative. Being a conservative and a yogi (yes, we can be one and the same), I'm constantly faced with comments like yours about Sarah Palin. I do not and will not endorse her, but am disheartened by the vitriol that surrounds her every word and move. Part of what I love about your blog is your open-minded dialogue. Isn't part of yoga to try and be accepting of one another? Even when we disagree?

  • Om Gal

    Very fair point, Anon. I tried to be sassy; it was a bit insensitive. I'm sorry.

  • anna

    Poses that require balance on one leg are a definite struggle for me – but by doing them I increase my patience and strength. Ballerina ankles (weak) and big hefty hips make it a real challenge.

    In my life, balance is something I always work on!

  • Chrissy Horan

    Thanks Rebecca. I took your class the Thurs before this post and you said something similar there. It was a good reminder for me, back at my first class after having hip surgery, to stick to the promise I had made myself and take it easy :)

  • moxie

    This was a great post! Your sense of humor and insight is great, Rebecca. =)

  • Anonymous

    Crooked limb is also a great arm strengthener, but not many people blog about it. I found Leeann Carey has a great free yoga video that breaks down the pose in a way that’s accessible and shows you that you really can do it. I thought your readers might want to check it out: http://planetyoga.com/yoga-blogs/index.php/crooked-limb-pose/