When bending feels like breaking

Ah, backbends. Is anyone else a little afraid of backbends? At times I am straight up terrified of bending back when I have nothing to hold on to. My mind starts to race. It’s almost like a fight or flight response is triggered: my hands want to fly towards something to support me and I want to run away from backbending altogether.

Backbending yoga postures, while terrifying at times, are truly amazing. They really expand the chest area (a.k.a. open the heart) and, I don’t know if anyone will get what I am saying here, but they allow me to breathe with clarity. I remember the first time I got into my wheel pose just a couple of months ago. I had the pleasure of experiencing a yummy, full, tingling feeling in my heart centre after coming out of the pose. That was the moment that inspired me to write my very first post about this new #yogajourney.

On that day I hadn’t anticipated how much harder it was going to feel to get into and stay in wheel pose and other backbends. I continue to feel a sharp pinch in my lower back and I often feel defeated when I am not strong enough to hold a pose.

One thing I have come to realise, particularly through practicing backbends, is that the more I learn about different asana, the more aware I become of my ‘mistakes’. It is a sad fact that my brain has been conditioned to berate my body and my being when it does not live up to a particular standard.

This is all to say that sometimes ego gets in the way of fully appreciating your body. Getting onto the mat and doing something for yourself is in itself an accomplishment and a blessing. I used to think that an ego-driven practice could only happen in a public yoga class, but it is clear to me now that ego can lead your practice in a private space too.

It is difficult, but it is important to remember that executing poses is not everything. Some postures take time, and some others may never be accessible to you.

One of my goals for this year is to undo the negative conditioning of my mind. Instead of reacting with harshness and criticism, I’d like my intuitive reaction to be one guided by love and encouragement. Instead of a fight or flight reaction, I want to embrace the experience of yoga – struggle and all. After all, flight or fight responses should only be reserved for actual dangerous, life-or-death scenarios – and let’s hope yoga doesn’t fall into that category for anyone out there (lol, Hunger Games: Yoga Edition, anyone?).

Ok, I have run out of words to type and it’s about 4 hours past my bed time.

Here’s hoping yoga newbies like myself practice safely, and if you ever find that you can’t bend back, lean back.

P.S. This is the backbend practice that triggered today’s yogic reflections. Kino is such an amazing spirit and teacher. Definitely my #WCW.

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