I teach a small yoga class out of my home for some of my neighbors. So it was Friday and we were in the middle of the flow when one of the yogis, M, says, “I hate reverse plank.” My immediate reaction was to defend the pose, to say how good it is for us, but I kept my mouth shut…I’m learning.
Because I too have a yoga pose I love to hate!
It’s normal. We gravitate toward the poses we’re good at and the ones that make us feel good. We avoid and “hate” the poses that are difficult for us and/or the ones we aren’t good at. The one pose that has challenged me the most is Utkatasana (chair pose). It has always been a position that is difficult for me to stay relaxed in for any length of time. I have tight hamstrings and this pose is stressful even when I’m trying to breathe through it. For a while, I hated it whenever it came up in class.
I also knew there was a reason it was so hard for me. I had weaknesses that I couldn’t hide in Utkatasana. It exposed my frustrations with my body and for that, I hated it. Hating the pose was an easy way for me to hate my limitations. It was as if through hating the pose I could have a legitimate way to hate my body and the things it can’t do easily.
But we’ll always have things that challenge us, in yoga, and in life. We can hate them and avoid them, but they’ll keep returning to cause us trouble. So I made up my mind a few years ago not to hate anything about my yoga practice, even poses I’m not good at. Even chair pose. Instead, I began to wonder could I learn to love something I once hated? And what benefit would there be to changing my mind about chair pose?
According to Yoga Journal, “Chair Pose clearly works the muscles of the arms and legs, but it also stimulates the diaphragm and heart.” Ahh, I thought open heart, open mind.
The result of trying to love chair pose is I get to face my anxiety around it and learn how to open myself more. I get to notice my physical reaction…the one that comes whenever I’m under stress, the one I need to remember to breathe through because it’s not just on the mat that stress comes to call. I get to examine this thing we call “hate” which is only the name we give to our own resistance to anything. I get an opportunity every week to look at how I relate to my body and make efforts to change that, to try to love all of it, even the weaknesses.
We can only transform our relationship with anything when we engage with it more when we face it as often as it takes to let go of our resistance to it. And once resistance is gone, we find the freedom.