For many people, they think that the hardest yoga pose is the one where some thin, blonde, model-y type person has managed to twist themselves around so that you can’t even identify how it could be accomplished.
Clear your mind of that image because…for each person their “hardest” yoga pose is the one that challenges them the most. For some people that may indeed be a pretzel-y pose where they need to work months if not years to stretch the correct combination of muscles to be able to successfully balance on one hand while holding their foot with their other hand. Please don’t ask me to find a picture of that. Just as a personal intention for your practice or a single class is different for each person or a life-goal is different for each person, your own hardest yoga pose is very individual.
For me, the hardest yoga pose changes. I’m currently working on arm balances, because I hate that I can’t do them. I have worked for years to feel comfortable with my skinny wrists and to embrace their strength. For me, this is what my hardest pose is now. For many years it was hand to big toe pose. I wanted that strength and stability that I saw in that pose. Once I was able to accomplish it, you will find me doing that in my kitchen… just because I can.
For others who are just starting yoga, savasana may be their hardest pose. Just lie there. Relax all your muscles. Resist the urge to move. These instructions to someone who is very animated or anxious may seem like a death sentence the first time they get into savasana. It’s easy to spot these people, and I sincerely try to find a good balance when I am teaching to make the pose long enough for the people who love it and short enough for the people who find it challenging.
For those of you still needing some help finding your “hardest pose”, the way to find it lies in the following questions:
- What challenges you? If that challenge is to sit still, then maybe a long yin hold is where your challenge lies. If it is a challenge to see your own strength, then maybe a balancing pose (not necessarily arm balances) may be your challenge. Maybe it has been your goal to touch your toes, so maybe a deep forward bend is your challenge.
- What is your weakness? Now weakness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does show you where you need strength. This can be both physical weakness and mental weakness. If you find that sitting still for more than 5 seconds is torture, maybe a meditation practice is where you need to focus your challenge. For me, my skinny wrists prompted me to find several poses where I could build that strength.
- How do you identify yourself? One of the best ways to find where you need to challenge yourself is to challenge the labels you put upon yourself. If you strongly identify with being a certain age, then maybe your hardest pose should be one that makes you feel young. Maybe you identify yourself as strong and sturdy, then maybe you need to find a pose that makes you feel vulnerable. That is your challenge.
Long story short… find your own challenging yoga pose. For inspiration, check out the various poses on Yoga Journal’s pose page. Find something that looks fun or challenging to you and research how to build the strength or the flexibility to make that pose your own. As always if you have questions or want help to find a challenging pose for your yoga journey, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to discuss it with you and how you can get there.