Monday, February 25, 2013

Overcoming Obstacles

This weekend, I finally mustered the courage to try a yoga pose I've always been afraid of doing: plow (plough?). Yogis all over the world are scratching their heads thinking, plow? You were scared of plow? For non-yogis, here's a overview and video of plow (not of me, it was far too embarrassingly to include):

Plough or Plow (Halasana)

Regular practice of Plow Pose nurtures and rejuvenates the body's entire system. Halasana helps nourish the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine by increasing circulation and suppleness, releases tension in the neck and throat, alleviates the accumulation of phlegm or mucus in the sinuses and respiratory system, and gradually assists in lengthening and regulating the breath.

Halasana has a calming, restorative effect on the sympathetic nervous system. It also assists in balancing the glandular secretions adrenaline and thyroxin, while also improving the elimination of toxins in the digestive and urinary tracts. Those with a tendency toward high blood pressure may find relief from hypertension in the pose. In the inverted position of Plow Pose, the brain is flushed with blood, promoting mental clarity and increased vitality. (source)

Not an incredibly difficult move, but one I've always skipped right over out of fear. Why? I had scoliosis when I was younger, and as a result, had surgery to straighten my spine. I now have two metal rods that run the length of my spine, helping keep everything in place. I had always just assumed that the move was out of my wheelhouse, giving up before even trying. I had also just always assumed that a yoga teacher would secretly 'judge' me about asking about such a simple pose.

I've been taking a Yoga For Beginners Workshop at Yoga Vida, and yesterday was our final session. I finally decided I was being silly and I'd just ask the teacher for help. I don't know why I had such a problem with this- I signed up for the workshop to make sure I was doing poses correctly and finally learn modifications for my back. And she had already helped me with a modification for upward-facing dog, a pose I had always found very painful when done in the regular position. So it wasn't like she a) wasn't aware of my scoliosis and b) hadn't already helped me! 

Silly Allie. After class ended, I approached her with my question, feeling quite ridiculous. She didn't bat an eye, but instead eagerly worked with me to achieve the pose- first talking with me about my fear and the fact that it was probably my mental fear holding me back more than anything, but that she would watch me to make sure nothing was going wrong physically when I attempted the pose. And then coaching me through the position several times until I felt comfortable doing it on my own.

And guess what? After a few attempts, I couldn't believe I had ever been afraid to try!

It's not perfect, and I did feel a twinge of pain, but I learned that it was because of my tight hamstrings, not my back. At the end of the pose, your legs are supposed to reach behind you and touch the ground--- but they can't do that if you have super-tight hamstrings. Um, hello runner hamstrings. Which also led to a conversation about running and the benefits of yoga. Exactly the opposite of what I thought would happen!

So why was I so scared? It's very humbling to have to ask for help. It means you're swallowing your pride and trusting that the person you're exposing your insecurities to will handle them with care. And it takes me a lot longer than I'd like to admit to get to a place where I'm willing to ask for help. It's something I'm working on, and will probably continue to work on for the rest of my life, but I'm slowly learning that it's ok to just to take a deep breath and admit you need help. Especially when 99% of the time it ends in a positive learning experience! 

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