Posted by on Jul 5, 2012 in Breath and Body | Comments Off on Nemesis


So, who’s your nemesis?  You know, that one pose that seems designed to make your particular body suffer in ways unimaginable?  The one that you may have begun to dread in a yoga class, or at least find yourself hoping the teacher will skip that week?  Is it Utkatasana (fierce pose – also called chair pose)?  The firing up of the quads makes some people squirm.  Is it Padmasana (lotus), that pretzel of twisted torture that you revisit time and again only to find that leg still isn’t tucking up?  What about Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3)?  That airplane-like alignment requires steadiness and strength (a whole lot of both actually), and the desire to bail creeps up pretty fast on that one.  Salamba sirsasana (supported headstand)?  Bakasana (crow)?  Urdva dhanurasana (wheel)?  Chatturanga dandasana?  (Yeah, I’ll bet it’s Chatturanga…)

Okay, I’ll give it up.  My rival pose is… Ardha Chandrasana (half moon).  WHAT?!  you are thinking.  That pose is SO EASY!!!  With all due respect, it has been that one thorn in my side as I worked past arm balances and inversions.  For years I got away with practicing it with level hips, and thought it was pretty great that I could balance and stay up there, no big deal.  But one correction to align my hips into a stacked position and I came folding like a house of cards.  I’d try again, and as soon as the hips would lift, I’d fall.  I worked on it at home against the wall to start imprinting what the alignment felt like, but as soon as I’d get in the middle of a room, I’d lose it.  In teacher training, I could pretty much guarantee that every single time that pose was instructed, someone would come up to me and rest their hips behind me, lean me there and correct the pose.  The thing was that I was already completely aware of how not there the pose looked, and I was also aware of how much I was working to get there.  I began to dread it in class.  I could feel my heart picking up if it was coming (usually after trikonasana), and I also began to dread the assist.  I wanted to get there, but I knew I had to chip away at it on my own.  Having an assist each time, someone to lean against, was more frustrating than anything.  I wanted to be left alone, unnoticed, and just get ‘er done.

A few years have passed since then and while I can say that ardha chandrasana at least looks as if it’s been conquered, I think I still have room to improve.  I can balance the hips and keep steady, but my mind is racing.  What’s left is for me to shed the baggage of the pose, to move beyond our history and start fresh.  Surrender, trust that my body knows how to take me there now.  It’s all a work in progress.

I love that yoga is always a work in progress.  There is no end, even if you work only from the asana side of the practice.  There’s always another pose to learn, a further place to move, a bit more stability to garner, more stillness to find.  About a week ago, there was a link posted on Twitter where various well-established yoga teachers were sharing their favorite poses of the moment.  What I loved was that one of them named a pose that continues to be a challenge as his favorite pose.  He chose Virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2).  Who hasn’t been put in a long Vira 2 and wanted to break out of their skin and run?  If you haven’t been there, you haven’t been asked to hold it long enough.  He described it as a “nails on the chalkboard” pose, which I thought was apt.  No matter how long you’ve been practicing, you can get in there, press out through the back heel and draw the front knee down 90 degrees, hug in, expand the arms, and you’ve got a recipe for a challenge.  When you’ve reached a plateau with this baby, it’s just time to set the clock a little longer and play with quieting the mind.

Everyone’s got (at least) one pose that they’d like to kick to the curb, but just as our ignored demons are the ones that grow stronger, we have to confront what limits us in the pose and work with it, not against it, if we are ever to feel some headway.  It can take a long time.  My personal experience with being over-corrected in my nemesis pose has led me to believe that you should feel comfortable with speaking up, mention to the instructor that you are working with/through some barriers on an asana and would rather be left to your own devices when tackling it in class.  If you’ve already been shown a safe and effective approach to working it out, take the reigns back with confidence.  And at home in your personal practice, instead of going to the poses you love, try playing with the ones you don’t.  You may surprise yourself and find some of these poses switching teams after you’ve given them some love and attention.  After all, an asana you hate is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.