How To Love The Yoga Poses You Hate

Posted on March 5, 2024

You’re feeling good, your body’s warmed up – and then the class moves on to a pose you find deeply challenging.

But instead of gritting your teeth and clenching your jaw (yoga is not meant to be stressful!), pause and change the way you think about your least favourite pose.

You might find this is the way to make peace with what holds you back from reaching your full potential with a pose. Or at least, not worry so much if you don’t. Remember, yoga is not a test.

However, we understand that most people want to progress their poses the more they practice.

Here, our resident yogis offer advice on 3 challenging poses:

How To Love Head Stand (Flex instructor Dani Bruns):

Flex Studio Headstand

In headstand, or Sirsasana (king of asanas) – as in every pose – the journey is the key, so breaking it down into manageable pieces that are comfortable for you is key.

Essentially, headstand requires core stability. That should be the main focus when working our way to the final stage. Don’t overthink what you’re about to do.

So there you are on the mat. Your forearms should be on the floor, as wide as your shoulders (with elbows directly under your shoulders). The weight of your headstand should NOT be on your head, but mostly in your forearms. Once on your head and arms (fingers are interlaced tightly, the head resting on the floor at it’s highest point, between forehead and crown of the head, gently resting with the back of the head against your hands) stretch your legs out straight behind you.

Next, walk your legs closer to your torso all the while keeping the spine straight and butt over your shoulders. Make sure your elbows do not drift out. Engage your transverse abdominis throughout. When you find the place that you can no longer walk in, make sure you are on the top of your big toes. Engage your legs and shoulder fully as you push those forearms into the floor. Feel how your legs want to lift off the floor? Imagine you are lifting up and not pushing down.

Bend one leg and bring the knee close into the torso then do the same with the other. Do NOT curl the spine in. Just take your time to feel each stage of the pose. Keep working on holding your legs in this position, the core fully engaged, the forearms pressing into the floor, the chest open as your shoulder blades draw more together, lifting the shoulders away from the ears (engage the trapezius). You should be comfortable holding this stage of the pose before you move on to the next.

For the next stage we continue to keep the knees bent. The aim is to bring the knees towards the ceiling so keep moving knees up as you push the pelvis slightly forward into a neutral position. This will create a stretch in your quads. Sarvangasana (shoulder stand – queen of asana. Pictured) is a great way to practice this. At all times, you should keep your knees together and big toes touching. Only once you found your equilibrium here should you move on to the next stage of straightening the legs.

As the saying goes no Master has dropped out of thin air. Only dedicated practice will get you there. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey.

How To Love Dancer’s Pose (Flex Teacher KookHee Andersson):

Firstly, preparation for a balancing pose is key. This pose (standing on one leg, the other leg kicked back and being held in one hand, other arm outstretched – thus dancer’s) can be achieved with a few tweaks.

Starting from mountain pose (standing straight, arms by your side, feet slightly apart) bring your awareness to all corners of your feet. Find your drishti (gaze point). Breathe slowly, then shift weight to one foot, mentally extending it in all four corners.

Keep your focus on that one foot, letting it feel light as you slowly lift it from the mat. Bend that knee and clasp the ankle.

Dancer's Pose Yoga

Tip: as you hold the ankle, ensure your thumb faces out. Doing this means your chest opens as you rotate the shoulder. As you extend your other arm towards the horizon, hinge at the hips and kick the foot – the one that you’re holding – strongly into your hand. The harder you kick into that hand (instead of just focusing on leaning forward), the more stability you can achieve. One last piece of advice – micro-bend the knee on the standing leg.

How To Love Half Pigeon (By KookHee):

Next time you’re faced with this pose (one leg bent, foot flexed, other leg straight behind you, foot on floor. You are then encouraged to sit straight and lean forward) practice patience and compassion towards yourself.

Rather than tensing in resistance, try for calming breaths so you can ease into whatever level of the pose is possible. Remember this doesn’t always have to be the full expression; you can use props like blocks or blankets to support you or modify the pose to get similar benefits without risking injury.

As with all yoga poses, if you lose your balance, rest in child’s pose, take a break and then get back into it!

Need more help? Flex is conducting The Mighty Headstand workshop led by Michelle Ricaille at One Island South, Saturday, June 10, from 1-2.30pm.

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