If Dante took up Yoga… Five Poses from Hell’s Seven Circles

Yoga is an ancient practice originating with the Indus-Sarasvati people in Northern India over five millennia ago. Yoga’s history in the west dates to the middle of the twentieth century and it’s become a popular work-out as well as a form of cross-training for athletes. Numerous schools and variations on traditional yoga exist and instructors often specialize in one or more forms.

I first tried yoga about twenty years ago and found it a bit too slow. I discovered hot yoga in 2014 following an injury and have been attending 2 – 3 classes a week since then. Hot yoga is a series of poses, done in a room that’s heated to 105 or more degrees with ample humidity.

Stretching is important and the heat is what makes many of the deeper stretches possible. That said, there are yoga poses that, though useful, I don’t look forward to. My least favorite poses are below.

Locust… imagine your wrists. Imagine your wrists trapped under your body, palms down, pinkies touching (ideally) as you lay prone. Now raise your legs and your head at the same time.

Ow.

Need I say more?

This is not merely Christian Grey’s idea of foreplay. Locust is good for staving off carpel tunnel and reversing the damaging effects of sitting at a keyboard all day.

Yoga toes… A few years ago, I developed Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot and heel. Hot yoga was a last resort before the podiatrist I couldn’t get an appointment with. There are several toe stretches and most are a component of other poses. My favorite is to actually curl my toes under my feet and sit on my heels (or as close as my fanny can get to said heels) for a minute or so.

Yes, you feel like you may have inadvertently wound up on Kim Jong-un’s naughty list. Toe stretches are akin to consuming Kefir, your Brussel sprouts and that horse pill of a multi-vitamin all at once. But, I promise, they work.

Corpse pose or Shavasana … laying on your back. Still. The Agony. Yoga instructors will tell you Shavasana is the most important pose, allowing all the other work you’ve done in the hour or ninety minutes previous to take effect. As a lifelong fidgeter, I don’t believe it. It’s hard to stay still… every muscle in my body is jumping… painful.

Ninety Ninety Pose… my 90/90 is more of a 90/45 and I have a terrible feeling this may always be the case. 90/90 is the base to Lotus… the pose people think of when they think of Yoga. If you have hips or knees that don’t move easily, this pose feels like you’re being dismembered.

Pigeon…the ideal base for pigeon has your legs in an inverted “L” on each side. Your hips and groin muscles usually don’t think much of this arrangement. Pigeon is a balance pose. Your right side is the masculine and your left, the feminine. Pigeon, to hear instructors tell it, is all about releasing resistance and gaining joy.

That’s right, you thought they were all about the bass, but your hips are all about the joy. My hips are rebels. Once an instructor (about 22 and capable of folding herself into something resembling what you’d see in the Auntie Anne’s kiosk at the mall) suggested that I have unresolved anger in my hips keeping me from my best possible expression of full frontal pigeon.

I smiled.

Because smiling releases endorphins that fool the brain into believing you’re having fun and the yoga instructor in front of you into thinking you’re not capable of bludgeoning her with a yoga block. My hips have carried me across countless miles and through delivery of two eight plus pound babies.

I can respectfully request, but my hips will do exactly what they want.

Most of my body parts follow a similar mantra these days. Fortunately, yoga teaches humility.

At this stage, I recognize I’m not invincible. I also know that if I don’t think I’m awesome, nobody else will. In yoga, you gain ground, but it’s always a journey. I will always be reaching toward something.

Often, the Advil.

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