Growing into your yoga and those seemingly impossible poses

Whilst I know that yoga isn’t all about the postures and pushing your body so hard it hurts, I must admit there is a great sense of satisfaction when you manage to achieve something that was previously all but a distant dream. I remember the euphoria when I managed to bind from an extended side angle pose, and it felt sooooo good.

Each week I would go to yoga and watch in amazement when the teacher would say ‘and for those who are able to, now bind’. This came fairly soon after a series of sun salutations from which I felt I would never recover, such was the unhealthy state of my body, so the sight of people able to wind their arms around their body and make them meet under their undercarriage was an anathema to me. It took all my energy to even manage a short extended side angle, so once I had held that for moments (which seemed a whole lot longer) I struggled up in an ungainly fashion, sweat pouring from my brow, and watched wide eyed as these lycra clad bodies bent into shapes I felt were nigh on impossible for any human being.

Fast forward 6 months and I was able to keep up with the class during the sun salutations and I didn’t dread the extended side angle any longer. I was able to hold the posture as long as anyone else and although my hands still didn’t meet, I did feel they were getting closer.

It’s a funny old thing that because you can’t see your hands you have a vision of where they are but this can be wildly inaccurate. I know this because one day another 3 months further on, my yoga teacher came to me and took hold of my out of sight hands which I surmised were at least 6 inches apart, and with a bit of outside help and tweaking, actually made contact with each other! There was no euphoric meeting and actual linking of hands; but they touched! And that in itself was a cause indeed for euphoria given my previous distance assumption.  That gave me the impetus to keep trying, as up until that point I had thought I was assigned to always be the spectator in a sea of binding yogis, which I was growing to accept.

And therein lies the value of a good teacher. he obviously had seen my struggles, could see how I deeply desired this achievement and was determined to help me. SO, next time in class he gave some additional instructions for this posture which really helped me to go deeper and get my hands even closer together. It wasn’t long until I was able to get my fingers to touch without his intervention, and now I can get them to link and hold. It looks so simple when written in black and white and covered swiftly in a couple of sentences and doesn’t adequately convey my months of frustrated attempts.

My teacher had clearly studied what I was doing, could see my frustration, could see where I was going wrong, and once he could see I was ready to bind, he gave me the instructions that unlocked that move in my head and allowed me to beat my nemesis – well one of them! ha!

So I just wanted to say to anyone who is struggling with a pose, just let it be. Just keep it as your target and just keep practising as you WILL get there. I not only can now bind in the side angle pose but can now lift my forward leg at the same time. (This is called the Bird of Paradise pose although mine is more like the broken duck as I can’t get the raised leg to straighten) Your body will change, your mind will let go of the fear and the ‘I cant do this’ attitude, and slowly but surely those poses will come. With a little bit of help from your teacher – but that’s a whole other story.

So, keep at your practice. You think things aren’t changing but each time you get onto that mat your body and even your mind will shift. It may be infinitesimal, but each infinitesimal shift builds on the one before, until they all come together and become that bigger shift which allows you to do what you had previously thought was but a distant dream. You CAN do it……..

TIP: The instruction that unlocked the binding in that pose for me was – when getting into side angle pose, stretch down and try to get your shoulder as close to the floor as possible so that it tucks under your knee

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