Is there a yoga pose that no matter how much you practice it never gets easier? For me, that pose is Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose). This pose challenges me both physically and mentally, but the physical challenge is far easier for me to stomach. Sure, my hips aren’t open enough, or I don’t have enough strength for the long holds, or my shoulders are too tight. These are all things that I can wrap my head around and I know all take time to achieve physically.
But what really bugs me mentally is how much not being able to do this pose bugs me mentally. I know I’m being circular, but that’s the point I’m trying to make. We’ve all been there, right? We know the point isn’t to master something, in fact, yoga can almost be described as the antithesis of mastering something. But we do want to feel like we’re going somewhere and that we’re continuously improving and our effort is not for naught. Here’s the thing, I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for more than 5 years and this pose is just as hard now as it was 5 years ago.
I bring this up now because today in my yoga class I was confronted with several REALLY long holds of extended side angle. The entire time we were holding this pose I had a running inner monologue that could put even the most loquacious person to shame: “why do I struggle with this pose?”, “why does is bother me so much that I struggle with this pose?”, “oh man, is that my hip bone grinding in my socket?”, “oh my god, her form is perfect, how is she tucking her hip so far underneath her pelvis?”, “ok fine, this pose is not available to my body, just put your elbow on your thigh and call it a day”.
I know this doesn’t sound very “yogic”, and I know that I’m not even supposed to look beyond the 4 corners of my mat. But that’s just what happens to me when I’m in this pose. I view extended side angle as the kryptonite to my yoga practice. I can approach my practice with patience, compassion, and non-violence but all of that mindfulness goes out the door when I’m in “extended side angle”.
The point is, we all face challenges both on the mat and off, but remaining flexible to the outcome will allow us to react positively when we don’t meet our expectations. My friend borrowed my “Heart of Yoga” book, and when I told her this story she sent me a snap shot of something I had highlighted in the book 2 years earlier.
“If we concentrate more on the quality of our steps along the way than on the goal itself, then we also avoid being disappointed if we perhaps cannot attain the exact goal that we had set for ourselves”
Remember that the next time you find yourself getting all up in your head. What poses challenge the very core of your yogic life? What do you do? How do you overcome what your mind is thinking and let go of what isn’t serving you?