My body doesn’t bend right for yoga. ~ Nadine Fawell

Via on Dec 22, 2011

 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on December 16, 2011. 
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My body doesn’t bend right for yoga.

By Nadine Fawell

I’ve just got back from leading a yoga retreat in Ubud. On my last day there, I went to a yoga class. Taught by someone else! Yessss! I wasn’t going to have to think. Someone else would tell me what to do. That could only be a good thing, right?

Well. It might have been, if I hadn’t forgotten that I have The Wrong Body for Yoga. My ass is too big; my hips don’t bend like they should. Basically, I am a loser who should just slink away and try aerobics or something. I can’t believe I managed to forget about that, and what’s more, be cheeky enough to become a teacher. But that’s okay: our teacher for the morning, a gumby-like man I’ll call Ananda, set me straight.

It all started with Triangle Pose.

Which I was doing, as is my wont, with my top hip pointing a bit towards the ground. It’s how my pelvis bends. If I try to get both hips facing forwards, like in the pictures of Mr. Iyengar, I pop a sacro-iliac joint.

Anyway.

Ananda told me I was collapsing, and that I needed to get my hips straight. I told him he was fighting bone. I think we might have had a language problem, because he stopped the class, and got me up against a wall to illustrate what needed to be happening in my triangle pose. He wanted my feet, bum and shoulders all to be against the wall.

Great idea, except….

Exhibit A:

My bootylicious ass (and somewhat swayed back). It’s humanly impossible for me to get feet, hips and shoulders against a wall without falling over or doing Banana Back (which I kind of do anyway). I got the giggles, people. Two of my students were also in the class and they were smothering their own uncomfortable laughter: we spend a lot of time in class talking about how every body is different, with different limitations, often using mine as an example. They KNEW it wasn’t going to happen. I just don’t think any of us expected Ananda to expend so much energy trying to fix me.

“You don’t practice enough,” he told me. “You just need to practice more.” Daily is apparently insufficient.

And then we did Triangle on the other side. With the whole class looking at me, since we were now facing my corner. And… I did it wrong.

Exhibit B:

Hips pointing the wrong way. Clearly a collapsed Triangle. Ananda came to fix me. And, funnily enough, my sacro-iliac joint popped. Hello, pain. Haven’t seen you for a while. Can’t say I missed you.

Why, you ask, did I let him do all this? Well, I didn’t want to disrupt the class more than I already had, and I didn’t want to be disrespectful by trying to give him an anatomy lesson in the middle of his class.

It was a great reminder though, that my body is not made for regular yoga, and most especially not for cookie-cutter yoga. The humiliation, I can deal with — in my early yoga days, I got a lot of it. That’s why I am the kind of teacher I am: I always ask people what’s going on for them before I offer adjustments, and I am very mindful with my language.

Wouldn’t want anyone feeling like a reject yogi, now would we?

Or maybe I have it wrong, and yoga really is only for the super bendy, those whose butts don’t get in the way, and whose legs rotate a full 360 degrees in their hip sockets.

 About Nadine Fawell

Nadine Fawell’s edit button doesn’t work: if there is something inappropriate to be said, she will say it. Often in yoga class. She drinks coffee and swears and sometimes she thinks deeply about life. You can find her at www.yogawithnadine.com.

About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.

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44 Responses to “My body doesn’t bend right for yoga. ~ Nadine Fawell”

  1. dan says:

    If a class is about standing in a particular certain way, isn't that better described as post-modern dance or something>

  2. West says:

    Nice BLOG! I always tell my students “Remember, it is called YOGA PRACTICE not YOGA PERFECT.”

    P.s. Nice EXHIBIT A too!

    • nadinefawell says:

      I (cough) didn't quite realise the IMPLICATIONS of naming it Exhibit A until the piece was published…
      Bless me :)

  3. catnipkiss says:

    Wonderful, Nadine! I, too, would have had trouble speaking up for myself, but you cannot let anyone hurt you in a yoga class. As you said, that has made you a better teacher. Those of us with imperfect "yoga" bodies have a place in this world, too! I wrote a blog last week on a similar subject: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/12/the-drunke… and had a lot of encouragement and good advice from other teachers and practicioners! Thanks for the post and for reminding people that we don't have to be stick-skinny to benefit from yoga. Smile – Alexa Maxwell

  4. Loved it Nadine…..I'm a teacher also and like to make class a safe and comfortable place for every body. Body shape, size, proportion etc are different for all of us, so there is not text book pose. It's all about getting into your own skin and being comfortable there – no point trying to be like someone else or pushing students to be the same! And sadly Ubud is home to quite a few of the Gumby, Betty Spaghetti brigade…

    • nadinefawell says:

      Maybe it's the heat there, makes them all bendy? Or maybe they are just ATTRACTED to the heat! Nice to meet you, Michele.

  5. Jason Gan says:

    You hurt yourself because you allowed yourself to be led, instead of owning your body. Perhaps we (practitioners of the Desikachar/Krishnamacharya tradition) should simply ignore strict compliance to form/what is written, and just follow our own bodies and how things feel at the present moment. I feel like a complete rebel doing my own thing like that.

  6. kitty says:

    Thank you for this!

  7. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posted to Elephant Main Facebook Page.

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    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  8. Mado says:

    Your body and your triangle are beautiful. I know you don't need strangers to tell you this, but it doesn't hurt either. I hate that you were put into that situation. Perhaps you can come up with a graceful response to protect yourself next time. I think it is important for your students to see what it looks like to stand up for yourself. Keep up the good work.

    • nadinefawell says:

      Thanks Mado: you are right, I need to model, and practice, sovereignty when, er, probably IF I next go to a WTF yoga class :P

  9. Great post Nadine! Yes, it is about learning to listen to your body and while joint alignment is important what the pose LOOKS like on the outside isn't what we are after here!

    Keep up your amazing work! And FYI you do have a beautiful body!

  10. Amelia says:

    If there was a language problem with Ananda this may not have helped, but you can just employ the adjective "callipygous" or you could even say that you have the condition of callipygia. Definition below:

    Adjective
    callipygous (comparative more callipygous, superlative most callipygous)
    Having shapely, beautiful buttocks.
    Synonyms
    (having beautiful buttocks): bootylicious, callipygian
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/callipygous

    Sorry you got hurt out of all this though :-/

    • nadinefawell says:

      Hehe, Amelia this word is ACE: I ran across it on one of the discussion threads when this piece appeared on Recovering Yogi. I so have that condition, my boyfriend would say…

  11. Anna Sheinman SOFLY_Anna says:

    Hi Nadine,

    Hi Nadine,

    Great article. I stopped taking group classes right before another injury was crawling upon me. I have my daily home practice, and this is the best tool for me! I study and practice with a mentor and take workshops to continue my education.
    I am sorry about your sacrum. A few days ago, I felt like I need to take a group class in the studio where I thought I would like to teach, to only walk out when teacher was trying to "fix" me…but it was hard to do and I felt a bit guilty.

    I think asana is not about the form, but about function. Yoga is path for transformation, a path to happier and healthier relationships with ourselves and each other. What does collapsed Triangle have to do with it, I don't know…

    Peace!
    Anna.

    Best!
    Anna.

  12. anouscka says:

    Thanks for the postnatal I got another body. A belly, bum and legs that got "in the way" after having a bendy slender body for ages…So making adjustments mysel;f to be able to practice in a safe way. The only adjustments I make "to students" are those to ensure that they stay safe and don't injure themselves. It seems that some teachers forget that every body is not the same…Yoga is for every body but that the adjustments are there to facilitate the body and not the other way around….

  13. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    well done.

  14. __MikeG__ says:

    I've noticed a lot of hating on Iyengar and his method of yoga. If you think Iyengar yoga is about form then you need to educate yourselve about the method. Iyengar yoga is a method of meditation by spreading your intelligence throughout your body during the practice of asana. My Iyengar teachers are the only teachers I have had who have the knowledge to properly handle back sacrum, knees, shoulders and any other physical issue. Many people who claim to teach Iyengar yoga are not actually qualified to teach the method. It takes a minimum of five years of practice study and testing to achieve a certification to teach Iyengar yoga. Before I discovered Iyengar I only did flow yoga. My primary flow teachers are students and workshop assistants to a major national level teacher who almost all yoga students in the west know of. But until I started to take from real Iyengar teachers I never had a teacher who had the knowledge to teach yoga safely and deal with my bad back.

    • nadinefawell says:

      Hi Mike

      I totally hear what you are saying. I think I need to clarify: I was just referring to the PICTURES of Mr Iyengar, not to his method. I greatly admire the man, and his teachings, and the things he can do with his body, and the thoroughness of the training he gives. I just can't bend that way, and that was the point I was making!

      • __MikeG__ says:

        I can't bend that way either. Mr. Iyengar is 93 and I still cannot bend like him. Those pictures are of a master of asana. Mr. Iyengar knew that people like you and me would break if we tried to go for the full expression of those poses. That is why he created his method. And I am not saying his method is 100% perfect. But for me, a person who has a very bad low back, teachers trained in his method are the only teachers I have found who have the knowledge to properly and safely deal with less than optimal physical issues.

        Thumbs up for you.

  15. ContentReader says:

    Thank you for this!… I would love to have a canned response to use in such moments that might help minimize the stress of figuring out what to say. Any ideas?

  16. [...] My body doesn’t bend right for yoga. ~ Nadine Fawell [...]

  17. Rachel says:

    funny. but truth be told sounds like she needs lots lots more YOGA practice!

    the practicing daily may not be a good practice at all if ur stuck on your ass still – even though it’s everyday. Obviously every body is different, is at different stages and has limitations- the one in this article sounds like a life of excuses in one triangle pose….

    • nadinefawell says:

      Rachel, it's true.

      I DO need a lot more yoga practice.

      I am so far from perfect, I am practically…human.
      LIke my boyfriend often says, how boring would life be if we were all perfect? There'd be no room for growth, nothing to learn. No hope of things being better than they are now. Terribly dull.

  18. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You've a body straight out of Botticelli, a REAL yoga body. There should be more videos such as yours that show how a classically-celebrated body moves in space – not just in a dance-exercise video, but in an actual yoga routine …

    It's time to celebrate the more gravitationally enhanced among us, rather than the gravitationally slighted …

  19. nadinefawell says:

    Thanks John!

  20. [...] Mary, we each are pregnant with God. That belly of yours? No matter the size or shape, she’s [...]

  21. Sarah says:

    I went to a Judith Lasater workshop a few years ago, and she taught us to do exactly what you are doing in triangle: let the back hip fall around toward the front leg, lest you put your SI joint at risk. I always teach it that way, and it seems to work out well.

    • nadinefawell says:

      Hi Sarah!

      I have been doing it this way instinctively for years, but as I recall, it was a podcast by Judith Lasater that made me feel like it was officially OK, since that was what she suggested!

  22. CarlyCo says:

    Love it! I have got JUNK in the TRUNK to spare, Lol. Quite often I hear that my natural bod inspires my students to work with what they've got going on! I love what you have done here, let me know when your ready to start a yoga booty revolution, I'm here for ya sister!

  23. [...] Yet again, my ass-ana had made itself the star of the show. It arrived at the flame earlier than I expected it to, and somewhat before the rest of me did. [...]

  24. nadinefawell says:

    I KNOW, good ole Krishnamacharya. All that dodgy alignment. I think all my studies in the Krishnamacharya tradition are what cooked my brain. All that stuff they go on about, teach yoga for the individual, yoga is for everyone, yada yada….

  25. nadinefawell says:

    You are issuing a challenge, aren't ya?

  26. nadinefawell says:

    I'd love to have you in a class, Alicia! You sound like my dream student – beautifully body-aware, wonderfully empowered xx

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