Yoga can be relaxing, invigorating, exciting, exhausting and so much more. And then there are those times when it’s just dreadful. Because we at Be Well Philly have our own least favorite yoga poses (Curse you, Camel Pose!), we thought it would be interesting to hear about asana angst from an instructor—or in this case, five instructors.
Below, we convinced five of Philly’s top yoga instructors to cop to their least favorite yoga poses. You know, the ones that make them go, “Uuuugh!” Here’s what they had to say.
"Dolphin, a pose a lot of people dislike, used to be at the top on my list of bad guys … well, up until recently. In the last couple of months, due to tons of work and a supportive teacher, I have literally fallen in love with the dastardly dolphin pose.
"So now that that's off the list, what would be next on the chopping block? Full lotus pose, for sure. I loathe this pose. It's not because it's boring or awkward or difficult. It's because I simply cannot do it! My hips have yet to become that open—especially since I have a lingering knee injury on my left side that compromises such intense hip mobility.
"Who knows how many years it will take for me to coax flexibility into that area of my body? Ten? Twenty? A lifetime? The worst part is, as an instructor and practitioner, not having full lotus pose automatically knocks many asanas and asana variations off my repertoire.
"I continue to try and try, and open slowly. And I find myself living vicariously through some of my students and fellow yogis who can get in lotus in seconds, brimming with a bit of jealousy. But hey, I know that they must have a least favorite pose, too!"
"I find balancing poses, like Extended-Hand Big-Toe Hold, to be challenging, which makes me do them more—especially in front of a class. This way, everyone sees me struggling in my practice, as well. I have gotten a lot better with this pose, but my legs hyper extend to the point that the back of my knees will go close to four-inches behind my heels if I don't draw my knees back in line with my ankles. Sometimes I nail it, but most times I don't.
"I hate to make excuses, so it is a process and project. Surprisingly, a lot of students tell me that the instructions for this pose allow them to access it: Ground through the standing leg, slightly tuck the tail, stabilize through the core and extend through the crown, pay less attention to the standing leg and more attention to stabilizing through the core."
Where you'll find her: Focus Fitness Main Line and Church of St. Martin-in-the-Field, Chestnut Hill. (And on the cover of this year's Be Well Philly!)
Least favorite pose: Chaturanga, and the practice of "pushing through."
"My aversion for Chaturanga began when I heard a yoga teacher say, 'Jump back…' and 'Jump up…,' and my brain said, 'That’s insane. No f—‘n way.'
"I've got no love for jumping from forward fold into Chataranga. Listen, after age 30, it’s just plain hubris. And a major shoulder or neck accident waiting to happen. If I want to jump, I’ll get a pogo stick, a trampoline or diving board.
"Chatarunga is brutal for the cervical spine, entire neck, elbows and shoulders, if done incorrectly. And just about everyone does it incorrectly. (Pinched nerves unite.) And it’s hell to rehab. Trust me—I spent two years healing my shoulder from my own unconscious mistakes and movement patterns. Now that I’m pain-free, I take my time and don’t do any pony tricks.
"Secondly, after 20 years of practicing yoga, I’m done with any pose that makes me say to myself, 'I should push through this'– no matter how seductive it may be. I could give a shit about a forward bend into handstand, crow pose into headstand, chimichanga into bada-bing-boop-asana. Who cares, seriously? Go run, go rock climb, do what ever you need to do. But you’ll find me and my students enjoying the mellow, gentle, 'more advanced' poses that don’t kill you.
"I ask my students: How do you want to move when you’re 80 or 104? The number one injury in America is falling, and most people die or decline rapidly after that basic accident. So I'm interested in keeping myself and others standing, and mindfully working with flexibility, core strength and balance. The rest is acrobatics and I’m not planning on auditioning for any trapeze or Vegas shows in my near future."
"It always amazes me how some yogis can drop into Supta Virasana like it's nothing. Not this girl! Okay, maybe if I'm extremely warmed up, but otherwise my sensitive knees and lower back start talking to me and all my body wants is a bolster and a blanket. When I move out of Supta Virasana after holding it for some time, I swear I feel like a 100-year-old woman ... always a humbling experience.
"And, oy Kapotasana! I know you are really good for me, but my body does not like you very much. As flexible as my back may be, my quads and psoas are not. My short arms don't do me any favors in this pose, either. I'll admit that my mind and body start to resist you as soon as I see that we are headed in your direction."
Where you'll find her: Philly Power Yoga
Least favorite pose: Changes daily.
"It took me awhile to start respecting my body and to become more connected to it, listening to what it is trying to communicate to me: whether I am forcing my body into an asana posture that does not feel right or good, or a pose that leaves me feeling unaccomplished, empty or disappointed.
"In realizing that those poses I was trying to force my body into wound up hurting me, in more than just a physical way, I learned to back off and start taking care of myself. I learned to not use force or try to do what everyone else was doing. And I stopped competing with myself. As I started to respect my boundaries, I began enjoying my practice more and gradually began building upon my practice.
"Ultimately, every time I step onto my mat, it is a different experience."
» Time for your confession: What's your least favorite yoga pose? Share in the comments!