Dealing with difficult poses

Yoga is a great way to tone your muscles, develop flexibility and your ability to relax. But it can also be pretty frustrating. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that everyone who has been to a few yoga classes has experienced some frustration at some point.

Balancing poses are perhaps the most obvious source of frustration, especially if it’s one of those days when you’re wobbling and unable to hold a pose like Vrksasana¬†whilst the rest of the class is as calm and still like the tree the pose is named after. I hesitate to mention Sirsasana (Head Balance) and the years of practice I’ve needed to be able to perform the pose away from the safety of a wall.

Alternatively, you might be in one of those lessons where the teacher is getting you to hold seemingly simple poses for a long time. 5 minutes in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog) can feel impossible and if you have to come down and go back up 1 or 2 times then you can end up feeling a little bit defeated by your lack of stamina.

My current source of frustration is a pose called Supta Virasana.


It’s looks deceptively simple. You start sitting in Virasana, then just lie back. Easy! However, if your quads are tight, or your hip flexors, or your knees or the deep postural muscles then this pose will not come easily. The class I’ve been teaching this week is focused on developing flexibility in all these areas, with Virabhadrasana 1 as the peak pose. It’s a very active sequence which involves lots of preparatory stretches from Tadasana – Gomukhasana arms, hands in reverse Namaskar, standing quad stretches and a belt-assisted standing back-bend in Tadasana.

This can be a good way to deal with a difficult pose. Rather than attack it head-on and force yourself into it, take some time to think about the source of your difficulty and work on those areas in different poses. The standing quad stretch and the final pose of Virabhadrasana 1 both help to develop the flexibility I need in my quadriceps. Working from Tadasana and doing a standing back-bend is helping to develop the flexiblity in the deep postural muscles, Psoas Major and Minor and Iliacus.

And it has worked, a bit. I’ve been getting closer and closer to a comfortable Supta Virasana. Of course it takes time but there’s less frustration in the pose now as I can see some small improvement.

Perhaps it’s an approach that works not just with difficult yoga poses.



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