When I practiced yoga for the first time I felt a huge rush of adrenaline, like everything hurt yet fun at the same time, rays of sunshine everywhere - I am flying.
I was so hooked from the first time that I attended class almost every day thinking I could do Sun Salutations every minute for the rest of my life.
As I started to go to more advanced classes I was introduced by my teachers to backbends - the first were Bow (Dhanurasana) and Upward Facing Bow (Wheel or Urdhva Dhanurasana) and later it was Camel (Ustrasana) and Full Camel assisted by my later private teacher.
That was that, backbends and I were lovers.
After 4 months of practicing at the studio I transitioned to home practice with the help of YouTube videos - some short and some of full classes, to help me learn more about the practice and reach deeper.
The thought that guided me was the same one I had my whole life, especially as a long time runner - the more I stretch, the better results I get.
This concept was so wrong and caused many frustrations in my entire yoga practice, both physical and psychological that I will list here along with ways to overcome them.
Why am I not seeing any progress?
As a beginner, I was sure that a pose's description (arm balance/handsand/backbend etc.) was all it was meant to be.
When I wanted to get into deep backbends - I threw myself completely to the lower back, when trying handstand or forearm balance (Pincha), all I did was go upside down for a very long time.
I found out soon enough that it wasn't working, not because I'm incapable of doing these poses but because each of them is built on many other base blocks.
For example, the biggest improvement I've seen both in Kapotasana and forearm balance was when I started working more on shoulder openers.
In Kapotasana - you can only bend and stretch the lower back and chest so far. In order to trail than hands toward the knees the shoulders must be open, or else it's like walking into a brick wall.
In forearm balance - if the shoulders are tight and crunch around the ears, it leaves very little space for the head and after a few seconds the burning sensation makes it impossible to stay in place.
Finding out what stands behind the generalization of the pose is more likely to be the answer for it.
My back/wrists/hips/shoulders or all together hurt.
Overworking a muscle, tendon, vertebra or joint will get you injuries.
No matter how flexible you are - going into deep backbends or hip opening poses after a light warm up and without any proper cool down puts you in a risk.
You will only be able to bend so far using your lower back alone, or to get into deep hip opening poses relying on solely this part of the body, instead of working the shoulders and core
No matter how strong you are - doing a million arm balances, headstands and handstands a day will put a lot of strain on your joints and shoulders.
If you are naturally gifted in both, or just have many hours a day to practice - the body will be so tired and will not be able to soak up all the things you taught him.
As I see it, in order to gain progress your practice should aspire to be very wholesome; combining strength, flexibility and twists, and also using as many body parts as possible so that one area isn't overused. And even if it's a lot of fun, try limiting yourself to no more than 1.5-2 hours a day. Rest is a form of practice as well, as we let our bodies absorb in silence what he went through that day.
I get bored and uninspired.
After a few months' practice, we think we've seen it all, or at least all that we think is manageable for us.
For example, I don't think I can ever go into handstand and so I eliminate it from my practice completely.
First of all, even the poses that we can do, still hold many secrets and improvements for us to explore. To this day, with over 3 years of practice, I still can't get Down Dog right and one of my favorite things is to get new cues and adjustments in it. So don't give up on learning new things in 'old' poses.
Second, the goal of yoga isn't to reach a goal! Even if there's a pose that seems out of your reach, the whole journey toward it through body and mind exploration is a gift in itself. You get to know how, when and why your body changes and this is a never-boring experience.
It's too cold/ too hot/ too beautiful outside to practice.
It's true that in the winter we're too rigid to bend,
In the summer we're too sweaty to keep an arm balance with grace,
and if the weather is perfect - why are we spending our time on the mat?!
The seasons will always change, and the 'safest' way to overcome this is be prepared.
You know that it's cold, it's been creeping up for a few weeks now and everyone's already wearing sweatshirts - so grab the warmest leggings you can find and start your practice with kapalbhati and ujjayi breaths, and continue with even more Sun Salutations that you normally would, spicing it up with a lot of core work.
Slippery summer is upon us? It's time to enjoy it and work on your flexibility practice, feeling the spine and hips opening up with much ease in the warm weather. The arm balance solutions are finding a non slippery leggings and learning how to engage your core fiercely so you're not relying on your arms alone.
Flowers, butterflies and basically everyone are out and having fun in a beautiful weather - set yourself a 20-30 minute short practice that will get you up and out as soon as possible.
If none of these work for you - just leave it for tomorrow. Remember your practice as a safe and fun place to go to instead of 'but I have to'.
Every time I improve one area, the others suffer.
The greatest fear mainly when trying to practice both deeper backbends and any arm balance or inversion.
Too much into backbends - the shoulders are like butter and the back bends so easily that there is not much core work and ability to stay in one line in inversions.
Handstands, Pinchas and Heastands all day and we are left with tight upper back and shoulders that make entering backbends a long journey.
So how do we settle this? Combine.
In my practice I dedicate on average 3 days a week to backbend practice, 2 days to hip opening, arm balances and inversions, sometimes I attend Iyengar classes so I would get better alignment and every week day I go wherever my teacher decides to take me.
Mix it up even within the practice itself - after a long twists and forward folds practice go in reversed Table or Bow, and after a deep backbend practice you can always go into any inversion you'd like because open shoulders will give you a better hold.
Yoga is not a quick fix, it's not easy and in some occasions is not a very satisfying journey.
But over time, going through the ups and downs, you will find its beauty in all its imperfections - just like we need to learn of ourselves.
Come practice with me today - get your copy of Love of Backbends