“I hate this pose!” a fellow yogi in class lamented recently, squirming this way and that as she attempted to draw her back foot in closer during a variation of Half Pigeon pose. “Oh…but the pose LOVES you!” our enthusiastic teacher quickly replied.
Hmm. Kinda tough to feel the love when a quivering quadriceps muscle is screaming back at you. But this is yoga's version of tough love. And sometimes the truth hurts. Most of us yogis know that the poses we loathe are generally the ones we need the most, but it’s hard. Hips that have molded into cement blocks from years of running make Pigeon pose particularly unpleasant. Shoulders that hover over a keyboard all day get understandably cranky when Wheel pose comes around. But avoid these poses and you relegate your future to some pretty stiff circumstances. And why be a tight-ass when you can avoid it?
If you're like me, you naturally gravitate toward poses that come easily, and conveniently time your bathroom break or fuss with your pony tail when the crappy ones come up. I do it, and maybe you do too. Fortunately, through years of practice I've learned (most of the time, anyway) to tune out the endless little escape routes conjuring up in my mind when the poses I loathe come up.
I know that, as tempting as it is to adjust my mat, push my hair aside, high five my neighbor one mat over, I am better served by getting into the damn pose already. Here's why:
Nothing like a pose you loathe to shine a spotlight on your vulnerabilities. Not only physically, but emotionally. I inwardly curse in Double Pigeon. Even in silence, my internal dialogue could rap with the best of the trucks drivers out there. This is clearly an opportunity for me to notice my unsavory reaction to stuff I don't like, and work to create a kinder, gentler reaction.
2. Other Areas Of Your Life Open Up
The extra centimeter of opening I've gained in my quadriceps muscles is getting me one step closer to King Pigeon pose. And more tolerance to withstand east-to-west coast flights throughout the year in coach class. And a giant sense of gratitude and awe over the fact that I can still improve my practice in my mid-40s.
3. Your Patience Will Improve
My journey toward King Pigeon has taken about a year to achieve. Handstands? Three years of daily (yes, daily!) hard time on my hands before getting off the wall. There are heel prints and likely a dent or two in walls of every sort (hallways, hotel doors, a tree in Central Park) bearing witness to my daily commitment to nail this pose. I still fall, but my patience in getting closer has translated into other areas of my life.
For example, I don't get bent out of shape when the undecided patron in front of me holds up the line at Starbucks. I let the road warrior cruise in ahead of me during heavy traffic. What's my hurry? If I can wait three years, I can wait a few extra minutes in traffic.
4. Your Connection To Others Will Improve
I've met many a yogi friend through shared experiences wincing in Chaturanga or playing human dominos in a balancing one-legged hold. Dig into the poses you loathe with others, and laughter will likely ensue. So too will a sense of accomplishment. We’re all on this journey together, and at some point, we discover the hidden lessons waiting to be revealed in the poses we once loathed.