After 17 years of yoga practice, there’s a handful of poses that I absolutely love.
Bring on the backbends, baby! Is there anything sweeter in life than an open heart?
Good news/bad news: for every amazing pose, there’s one (or a few) on my “stuff that sucks” list. You know what I’m talking about… the confrontational ones, and the ones that break your spirit and keep you hovering on the edge of dread until you can almost feel your blood start to curdle like yucky, expired milk.
Fear and anxiety will do that, every time. And I’m not talking about a mild uneasiness; it’s gone way beyond that. Facing your fear is like making a date with a huge, hairy gorilla. It just ain’t over ’til the gorilla says it’s over.
Luckily, I’m onto this little game. I figure I can either bury my head under the stack of wool blankets in the corner—probably in some kind of backbend—or I can rally. So on a Monday morning, I run off to yoga for my friend Natalie’s class. Does this ever happen to you? The whole way there, I find myself planning my escape:
“Can we go easy today? I… hurt my ankle. I… screwed up my back. I think I have nerve damage!”
“Don’t push me. I’m just not in the mood for any personal breakthroughs.”
“I might have to leave early.”
Ultimately, I decide to keep my mouth shut. There’s always Child’s Pose.
I need some inspiration, something to look forward to. It’s time for a list. I’ll start with five of my favorite yoga poses:
1. Camatkarasana (Wild Thing). In a word: Yowza! It’s fun, it’s funkified and the name always makes me think of the Ton Loc song. Wild Thing is as good as it gets when it comes to heart openers, when you lift into the pose and offer yourself to the gods.
One translation of Camatkarasana: “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart.” First, that’s very sweet, but I’m not a fairy, and I’m guessing you aren’t either. Nice try. Second, it doesn’t even come close to describing how fierce that pose is. It’ll make you feel like the badass yoga thuglet you are.
Wanna kick things up a notch? Push up from here into a handstand. It’s crazy stuff, like a circus show. And you’ll feel super strong, like a Terminator.
3. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow). It makes me feel reckless, like drinking champagne straight out of the bottle. It’s severe, like a slap on a new tattoo. (Don’t ever answer “no” if someone asks you if your new ink has been set.) It’s a major bonanza; it’s vulnerable, super strong and it doesn’t fuck around. As my friend Kelly would say, it’s tits.
4. Parsva Bhuja Dandasana (Dragonfly Pose). The first time I saw this pose, I thought it was hot shit, even though I could barely tell what I was looking at with all those knees, legs and arms going every which way. The second time, I was even more baffled. The third time, I nailed it. It makes me feel like a break dancer. I love it, and it’s still hot shit, every time.
5. Ardha Matyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose—Bound Arm Variation). The hot mama of twists. Let’s talk about the arms—mine just don’t want to bind, no matter how hard I try, and I do try. And now would be a good time to breathe, while you’re busy squeezing and wringing out your internal organs, which may or may not be oversaturated by booze, In-N-Out burgers and/or all those extra sugary peppermint lattes. Be good to your insides. That’s your family in there.
We need balance. Isn’t that the name of the yoga game? Here are five poses I don’t love:
1. Eka Pada Koundynasana 2 (One Legged Koundinyasana Pose 2, or Albatross Pose). Whoever says this pose is easier than it looks should have their mouth washed out with soap. It’s just annoying, like the kind of girl who complains she’s getting old on her 25th birthday. Not diggin’ it, not even a little.
2. Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose). Can’t-breathe-can’t-think-where-do-I-take-my-gaze?-Am-I-supposed-to-take-refuge-here-like-a-freakin’-unevolved-primitive-looking-tortoise?-NOT-loving-it-this-pose-can-bite-me. That’s all I have to say about that one.
3. Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose). Oh my haaaammmstrings! They buuurn! OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but I do not like it. I can’t tell you how many times teachers have had to correct me for hyperextending my front leg, otherwise known as “hanging out in my joints.” How can something feel so right be so wrong?
4. Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Crow Pose). I’m noticing a pattern here… could it be those hamstrings again? Lack of core support? Holding my breath? Or could it be those pesky, defeatist thoughts and a bad attitude? Do I want to find new strength, or just be hard and conquer? The answer is obvious. It’s the one that’ll take you where you want to go, every time.
5. Navasana (Boat Pose). I went to a class once where this was the very first pose we did. Not only was I completely bitter the duration of the class, but I relive it every time I practice in that same room. And now I resent the room. Looking back, I should’ve made a run for it.
And what’s so bad about Navasana? I suck at it. Maybe that’s not a real answer, but it’s true.
“Corpse Pose sounds like no big deal, right? Then what’s so difficult about this spiritualized snooze? Forget about getting your feet behind your head. Just try lying still for 10 minutes. With nothing left to do, you’re finally forced to come face to face with yourself.” ~ Edward Vilga, Downward Dog
You know you had a good yoga class depending on your Savasana, your final resting pose.
It’s the one pose we never skip. It’s about transformation, renewal and rebirth. But I’ll be honest, playing dead gives me the creeps. It must a combination of a certain reluctance to evolve, fear of the unknown and the possibility of an earthquake. A knife-wielding maniac might come along. I’m not kidding. Also, people have been known to spontaneously combust when they reach a significant level of awareness.
With all this on my mind, I usually start to fidget around as quietly as I can. I certainly don’t want to interrupt someone else’s metamorphosis. Lucky bastards, you who can let go, let new power flow through you and stop thinking of all this crap!
Am I doomed because I can’t let myself relax and hang loose for five to seven minutes? I have a feeling my spine can use a little quiet time, not to mention my organs and other bones before they harden and crumble to ash. Can we meet in the middle, and I’ll keep one eye open?
It’s pretty clear I should stop drinking so much bottled kombucha tea before class; they rile me up, and my neuroses don’t need any help getting stronger.
So if you can bend it like Bhekasana, meet me in Bow Pose and we’ll high five it out.
Be easy, peaceful warrior. It’s yoga, it’s life and it ain’t torture. I’ll be seeing you in Savasana. I’ll try not to fidget.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Images: Wikimedia Commons; Camatkarasana, UrdhvaDhanurasana & Eka Pada Koundinyasana; Yogasoma; Pincha Mayurasana: Perez-00282; Dragonfly: Perez-00344; Ardha Matyendrasana: Wikimedia Commons; Kurmasana: Wikimedia; Parsvottanasana: Perez-00139; Eka Pada Galavasana: Perez-00345; Navasana: Wikimedia Commons.