The yoga pose that awakens fear in my heart like no other is – get ready for it – paschimottanasana. Yep, that’s right, a simple forward fold. I will gleefully do pincha mayurasana, hanumanasana, titthibasana, just to name a few oft-thought-of-as-advanced poses, before ol’ paschimo if given the choice. It hasn’t always been this way. I used to be able to forward bend with the best of them. But ongoing back trouble, often brought on or exacerbated by forward folding, has made it this way.
I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that a muscle known as the QL goes into fits of rage if I forward bend too deeply, too fast, or too soon after backbending…and the result is an alarming pop somewhere in my lower back, followed by pain and immobility. Fun! So it’s no wonder that I approach this forward bend with lots of caution, props, and modifications. I’ve also thought about just skipping it, and opting for something like dandasana, but it’s become an exploration these days. I want to figure out what’s going on, all in the name of preventing future back episodes. Knowledge being power.
And then there’s this little annoying thing called the ego. Whenever it’s time for this pose, my ego starts reminding me of my Ashtanga days when my forehead was smashed against my shins in a forward bend (see above photo of me being adjusted by Manju Jois, back in the day). Go ahead, you can do it, my ego whispers devilishly. And sadly, this is the hardest part of it all – being able to tell my ego to bugger off (to borrow a Britism) and let me do what I need to do to soften the pose and adjust it for my needs now. And what it comes down to is this: is it worth forcing myself into a pose for a few minutes, when the result could be disastrous and last much longer than the pose ever did? Which begs the question, why force yourself into any pose, ever? (Ego.)
It fascinates me, this yoga journey, and how our body’s journey through asana over the years can take so many off-the-beaten paths. Not all of them arriving at fabulous destinations, but even so, many lessons to be learned on the road called the yoga mat.
Also, while I’m on this topic: I really hate utkatasana. Always have, always will. And I’m afraid there’s nothing very illuminating about that – but at least I’ve come clean. Your yoga nemesis…? Do tell!