Which yoga pose do you dread and why? And what can you do about it?

Our post last week showing various video instructions on the “dreaded Kapotasana” ended up focusing on a different point than I would have expected.

Why dreading?

It wasn’t about Kino MacGregor’s approach versus Heather Morton’s. It wasn’t about what makes getting into this pose easier.

The focus was on the word “dreaded.”

As I wrote, I don’t dread Kapo because it is still so far off in the distance for my practice. But I sure see a lot of people making a huge deal about it in their practice and I often hear it talked about as “the dreaded Kapo,” as if that were its Sanskrit name.

The comments on the post were, I thought, really terrific — thoughtful, open-minded, measured and respectful of the practice.

As commenters rightly said, the dread is something we all bring to that pose — or any other we might rather avoid. (Reminder of a Tim Millerism: “Avoidance is not the answer.”) And we all know that reaction is what we are seeking to move beyond, or perhaps through, via our Ashtanga practice. If dread has never been part of the translation of Sutra 1.30, it maybe ought to be. (Perhaps it is better than “doubt”?)

And so, perhaps as an attempt at a collective or crowd-sourced way of getting us all through our dreaded poses, I ask this:

What pose do you dread (maybe seek to avoid)? Why? And what do you think you could or should be doing about it to overcome this particular obstacle to your yoga?

I’d offer to go first, but I’m not sure I can narrow it down. Right now, anything with a half-lotus bend to the knee or even a really extreme bend scares the prana right out of me. I try to be thoughtful and mindful and carefully push myself to my perceived limit, in the hope that limit will move further and further on. It probably is just a struggle with avoidance. I also try to sit in Virasana as much as possible — but it is never enough.

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “Which yoga pose do you dread and why? And what can you do about it?”

  1. Maybe dread is not so much the word for me – dread involves anticipation, and I usually don’t think about the posture until it’s staring me in the face!

    Becoming attached to “getting” an asana, or being averse to one is part of the process of learning about yourself/Self, right? The mental and physical exploration within the framework of the practice is fascinating, challenging, and what ultimately frees us.

    When postures elude me physically, it’s time to work on the “mental” part of practice – vairagyam:

    dṛṣṭa-anuśravika-viṣaya-vitṛṣṇasya vaśīkāra-saṁjṇā vairāgyam ||1.15||
    Imperturbability results from a balance in the consciousness, and when the desire for all things that we see or have heard of is extinguished.

    So, I attempt the elusive, “dreaded” posture – safely and wisely – and watch what arises. At first, it’s aversion – “I’ll never do this posture. I suck! That was so sloppy.” Mostly non-beneficial thoughts/vrittis arising from conditioning/samskaras. Then, with continued, steady practice, the vrittis change: “Let’s see what happens today here. Wow, that wasn’t so bad, it felt kind of good. Maybe someday…” It’s attachment, yes, but tempered with hope, too, more beneficial than the Debbie-Downer voice of aversion in my head, and so, some progress.

    After a long time of steady, cheerful practice

    (sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkāra-ādara-āsevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ ||14||
    Success can definitely be achieved via sound and continuous practice over an extended period of time, carried out in a serious and thoughtful manner.)

    my thought process will stop either grasping for outcomes or pushing away what is happening in the posture, and I experience (and I’m talking a few breaths here) no vrittis in the posture, just quiet comfort with what is arising, without attachment or aversion. Vairagyam. I find steadiness and comfort in the space of a breath or two. (Patanjali’s description of asana as “steady and comfortable” was referring to our minds as well as our bodies, maybe?)

    In the process of practice, the samskaras get worn away, even if I never “get” the posture physically. As Dena Kingsberg says in her excellent interview in “Guruji” – and I paraphrase here – a sadness, a trauma, is wiped away from the window of perception, and you open to greater clarity.

    Repetition is the key.

    Or, what the posture is trying to teach me continues to remain elusive – for now. But, then, there’s always this encouragement from Patanjali to contemplate:

    samādhi-bhāvana-arthaḥ kleśa tanū-karaṇa-arthaś-ca ||2.2||
    If your practice is aligned with your goal (samadhi), the obstacles along your spiritual path (klesha) will disappear and ultimately you will reach your goal.

    1. Thanks Michelle. (I was thumbing through the Dena part of the Guruji book yesterday. So much other reading, though!)

      Both Bobbie and I, I think, have talked about the irony of Ashtanga in posts — you may have hit on the main one: you have to try (be attached) the poses in order to move to some place where you aren’t attached. Boil that down: You have to be attached to not be attached.

      Or, to pull a few words from your comment: “Repetition is the key.” But repetition is Samskara, right?

      Oh, the irony.

      The Sutras — “few words, big meaning,” as Tim Miller says — by being ironical in a sense, themselves (few words but lots to think about) provide the right road map, I think. Or, maybe better put: That’s why they are such a good road map for this particular journey.

      Does anyone ever really “get” a posture right, do you think?


      1. “Does anyone ever really “get” a posture?” Wow. Good question.

        I think if we think we “get” it, then we probably still haven’t “gotten” it! Would that be just another of the obstacles? (Would it fall under bhranti darshana – blindness or delusion?)


        avidya asmita raga dvesha abhiniveshah kleshah ||2.3||
        अविद्यास्मितारागद्वेषाभिनिवेशः क्लेशाः ॥३॥
        avidyā-asmitā-rāga-dveṣa-abhiniveśaḥ kleśāḥ
        The obstacles along the spiritual path (klesha) are as follows: a lack of insight (avidya); identification with the mutable (asmita); the belief that happiness (raga) or unhappiness (dvesha) result from outer circumstances; deep seated anxiety (abinivesha).

        Small words, big meaning, indeed.

        (Not sure if I think of repetition as samskara. Samskara to me is subconscious imprints established through what we’ve experienced in this life (or in past lives) that color our perception of reality, our conditioned responses, the way we live our lives.)

      2. I agree with your definition of Samskaras, but I can’t help but think they manifest in our unrecognized habits. And I think a yoga practice, done without reflection and perspective, would be that.

        I might boldly suggest that those people you know who practice yoga (asana + other limbs) but don’t really seem “to get it” might be doing all their practice without real self-reflection. (They might think they are… etc.) I know that sounds judgmental — I guess because it is. 🙂

  2. Padangustasana. It has been such a challenge. Will try to wrap my head to the place it should be according to the above comments. Thanks again for a great blog. Lou

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