Each time I go to my usual yoga class, the instructor recites the same guiding principle, “If you need to take a child’s pose during your practice, please respect your body and do so. There is no shame in listening to your body’s needs.” And while I find myself agreeing with this sentiment, when I reach a moment during my practice where my body is begging for rest, I resist the urge to relax and pride myself in powering through a yoga session with just sips of water as a necessary break.
Child’s pose has garnered the bad rep of being viewed as weak and submissive. Too often, our culture treats yoga as a performance; we don’t allow ourselves to take the well-deserved rest in fear of being perceived as incapable. While consciously, I love yoga for the spiritual experience it provides me, subconsciously, I whisper to myself to appear strong during my yoga classes so others can be impressed with my skill. My competitive nature comes out and I refuse to give my body what it needs because I don’t want to be seen as “giving up.” This headstrong mentality is not what yoga is supposed to be about.
Contrary to what is believed, child’s pose is one of the hardest, strongest yoga poses. It restores your body and builds up your strength, allows you to calm your mind (arguably one of the most difficult things to do in yoga), and helps you to reconnect with your body – one of the core foundations of a solid yoga practice.
There is great strength in letting go and listening to your body rather than desperately keeping up a façade so that you’re not perceived as a “quitter.” I resisted child’s pose because I thought people would think I couldn’t do a pose or that I was struggling through a yoga class, but I’ve found that a) in class, no one is really comparing people anyway and instead, as the typical self-involved human, more preoccupied with what is going on our own mats, and b) more importantly, when I did finally give in to child’s pose, I helped give my body the necessary strength to continue my practice with more energy and stability. By allowing myself to reconnect and be present with my body, I not only strengthened my body but deepened my yogi connection – the simplistic beauty of yoga is breaking away and finding power in those sincere moments of calmness.
Looking past my eager competitiveness, I discovered that I wasn’t just fixated on looking impressive but that my fast-paced, monkey-mind attitude was severely taking over during yoga and unknowingly making me rush through a practice. Child’s pose would slow me down and I wanted to bring on an active sweat. Yet my craving for a speedy workout hindered my capability to be present and mindful during yoga. Sure, I was building strong muscles, but is it really worth it if I’m not building a strong sense of self as well?
The toughest part of yoga for me (and I assume most average working people) is giving ourselves a break, a breath, and a space to relax. Child’s pose is where you cultivate stillness and the search for peace can be sorely interrupted by sporadic, jumpy thoughts. The simple act of being still can be more of a challenge than a headstand; the weight of our bodies can be a definite struggle but the weight of our minds can be even more twisted. Despite its deceptive appearance, child’s pose is never as easy as it looks.
After countless yoga classes for the last six years, I’ve never allowed myself a child’s pose voluntarily, until now. I’ve found solitude, strength, and let go of shallow hang-ups by doing child’s pose, through restoring my body and my mind not by giving up but giving into meditation, rest, hard work and above all: strength.
Also by Jessica: How Yoga Helped Me Battle Depression
Photo: Jessica Renae