Halloween can be a fright, but yoga should never be! It is true that sometimes you haven't fully developed the strength or flexibility to move to a more advanced variation of a pose. However, sometimes it is just your ego that is holding you back. Your ego screams at you from within: "Don't try that pose! You'll never be able to do that. You might fall." So let's tackle the ego first. To grow in yoga you must be willing to fall out of poses. In fact, to grow in any area of your life you will most likely have to stumble along the way. I have found that the amount of stumbling and fumbling almost always directly correlates with the reward; meaning the more times you fall the higher you rise. In a pose, right at the edge of going too far and falling out of the pose is exactly where you will keep growing and transforming the body and mind. So give up the ego and give yourself permission to fall. And if you do fall out, smile. It will ease the bruise to the ego.
Now let's tackle some poses that you might find a little scary at first, but with a few simple tips you just might be able to master!
The easiest way to learn to take crow or to help yourself out in crow is to put a block under your feet. By lifting the feet off the earth you can begin to play with lifting one shin then the other onto the upper arms. With crow it can be feel scary to be lifted off the earth, but the block underneath your feet acts like a security blanket. You'll be flying in no time.
In a vinyasa or flowing style yoga class there is a fun transition of jumping your legs through your arms to come to seated or to transition to your back. If the thought of being able to pike your legs through your arms sounds intimidating and challenging, it is time to face the fear. Grab two blocks. Put one hand under each hand in downward dog, engage the core and jump and shoot your legs through your arms. FUN! If you've been sweating and the mat is a little slipperier all the better; your legs will slide right through like a Slip 'n' Slide.
Full Back-Bend/Wheel and Dropping Back to Wheel
If you have graduated from your bridge pose and would like to try a full back-bend but somehow your mind still has you pinned to the mat. Here is an easy way to lift off the earth. Bring two blocks to a wall or a stack of sturdy books. Now set your hands fingertips forward away from the wall on the block and push. By having the blocks at the wall you can really push with power. The resistance of the blocks pushing back into your hands will help pop you up.
If you already take full back bend/wheel then your next stage is learning to drop back. WHAT? Through mid-air? Yes dropping back from standing. This requires practice and awareness, and definitely pushing past the fear barrier in the mind. To start working on moving past the fear and conditioning the body, set yourself up against the wall facing away from the wall, but not too far away from the wall. Bring your hands to the wall and walk your hands up and down the wall to mimic dropping back and coming back to standing. Practicing at the wall this way will teach you about the leg and core strength and coordination you need to be able to drop back for wheel pose.
Going upside down onto the top of the head can induce panic and anxiety, mostly because it is just something we don't have a need to do in everyday life. But finding a headstand inversion is very calming, core strengthening and reduces stress and even stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands.
If you find it challenging to take regular headstand take the fright out by trying a modified tripod headstand. From wide-legged forward fold widen your feet away from each other, keep the finger tips and toe tips in the same direction and slide the hands backs, bring the crown of the head to the ground so that the head and hands make an equilateral triangle (even space between all three sides). Then start to walk your feet in and your knees up onto the upper arms. This will start to familiarize your body with bringing you weight onto your head. But because you also have your hands on the ground, your upper body is bearing some of the pressure and weight. As you feel ready you can draw your legs toward the ceiling by engaging your core body.
Side Crow Extended Legs Variation
Just thinking of coming into Side Crow Variation can make your heart beat faster and the sweat droplets start dropping from your skin. Take a breath and follow these easy steps to try this pose the next time you want to try and fly! Come into a revolved crescent lunge pose. Grab two blocks under your hands and bend the arms to create shelves with your upper arms. Engage the core and gently start to rock your body weight onto your upper arms. Try it and in trying you just might lose the very thing that had you avoid it in the first place, the fear!
Of course if all else falls in yoga remember to just Bee!
Model: Siga Bielkus