Here’s a snapshot of my scorpion pose practice for the last two years.
Forearms parallel, palms flat on the ground. Check.
Kick legs up, stack hips past shoulders while bending the spine, knees in the air about hip distance apart, gaze forward.
All good. Hold it…and like a falling tree, I buckle and land on my back with a bang.
Wondering why I’ve dedicated myself to mastering this posture for so long?
No question the scorpion is a venerable pose—strong, elegant, and loaded with yoga street cred. Watching enviously as other yoga students nailed it, I felt drawn to the arresting and vulnerable beauty as they opened the neck and torso in a backbend while balanced on forearms. I wondered if I had the discipline, patience, and core strength required to capture this pose and, most of all, could I overcome the fear.
There was only one way to find out, so I added it to my bucket list of things I wanted to be able to do before I turn 55. At that time I was 49.
Fast forward two years to the present moment. Despite 20 years of yoga practice, I discovered the emotional part of mastering an advanced inversion asana was more gruelling than building a stronger core and upper body. Some very un-yoga feelings were dredged up.
Rather than humility and calm, I felt resentment towards the slow learning process; anger at my body for not doing what I’d like; jealousy towards those who did the scorpion pose with ease; and fear of hurting myself. Rather than encouraged, my defeat was inflamed after falling and being quoted, “Not today, not tomorrow, someday.”
I threw in the yoga towel countless times. Invariably, my yoga mat beckoned me to try again. I returned, albeit sheepishly. Yeah, you’ve been there too.
My scorpion practice took a positive turn when I surrendered to the noisy negativity, accepted the open-endedness of it, and was reminded of a useful quote from Ashtanga guru David Williams to “Follow the feel-good.” I was entitled to practice, not entitled to master a difficult pose at my whim. With each attempt and fall, instead of tacking up another failure, I acknowledged what felt good and gave thanks to my body for giving me strength and balance.
Serendipitously on a winter morning after a snowstorm, it happened. I decided to practice the “falling over” pose (what I started calling my version of the scorpion), rather than shoveling my driveway. I did my usual set-up, only this time, like perfectly aligned planets, my shoulders, spine, hips, and knees were stacked to create perfect still balance. Upside-down and grinning from ear-to-ear, I melted into the feel-good.
If you are putting in your time to master the elusive scorpion, I want to share some tips that helped me follow the feel- good during my learning process.
Love the wall. With a wall behind you for support, your forearms, shoulders, core, and neck can build strength and muscle memory. If you get frustrated going wall-less, go back to it; your form and groove will spring back.
Landing pad. If falling backwards is holding you back, take control of your fear by creating a soft landing. My first wall-less attempts took place on a Florida beach under blue skies and sunshine. I still fell, but familiarized myself to the sensation in a safe setting. Back home, I used a thick shearling pelt as a landing pad.
Toughing it out sucks. Don’t let the pose take control; take control of your practice by making it a positive, fun experience for yourself. Listen to invigorating, motivating music. Reward yourself with a healthy smoothie or chai latte.
Don’t be shy. Falling backwards in a studio full of yoga students may feel embarrassing, but we’ve all been there and the yoga community is a supportive one. Experienced yoga practitioners are always eager to share how they learned to execute their favorite inversion pose. Utilize the expertise of your yoga instructor on ways to improve.
Hit it once a day. Committing to a daily home practice develops stamina and core strength. Keeping a mat against a wall ready for three or four tries will take about 10 minutes of your day.
Let it happen and unfold by itself. Nailing the scorpion, for me, was made even more delicious because it came out of nowhere.
If you don’t feel like mowing the lawn, starting the laundry, or any other chores you have to do, go practice your scorpion pose.
You may just nail it!