Posts Tagged ‘Snail pose’

Recently I’ve begun to introduce more sophisticated forms of inversions in class.  Specifically we’ve explored Snail pose or modified plough pose.
Inline images 1
(Inversions are poses where the head rests below the heart.)  It was while students were in this pose that I asked, “How do you feel about being flipped upside down,”  to which I received a very quiet but clear response of, “I don’t like it.”  So let’s talk a bit about why we do inversions, not so much the physical reasons but the more subtle mental and emotional reasons for such a practice.
In Snail pose, the weight is taken by the back of the head, across the shoulder blades, and down the upper arms.  The weight of the folded legs greatly compresses the inner organs that have now dropped towards the chest cavity, pressing against the diaphragm and making it more challenging to breathe.  It is not uncommon to experience a choking sensation, to think, “I can’t breathe,” and to feel PANIC!
Now why in God’s name would we do this to ourselves?  I think a more interesting question is:  Why wouldn’t we?  🙂
Yoga is so much more than a set of physical exercises.  Each asana, in a way, mimics various scenarios in life.  When we take a stance we begin to understand ourselves in richer, more detailed ways.  We begin to understand how we approach and deal with life, and then we learn new ways.
Each and every one of us will come up against situations that cause us to feel disoriented, choked, “flipped upside down” and panicked.  Like the Snail pose, we feel heavy and restricted, like the world is falling in on us.  Situations like serious illness, loss of a job or relationship, and death can feel overwhelming and smothering.  In the face of such things we often feel utterly helpless, but we aren’t; inversions teach this very well.  Regardless of how great the weight or how tight the space, we can always do something–we can breathe!  It’s a different breath, often more shallow and slightly more laboured, but it’s breath and that’s something.  In fact, in the scheme of life, that’s EVERYTHING!  We can go days without food but we can only go minutes without breath.  Breath is life and where there’s breath, there’s possibility and the potential for something new to take place.
We practice being flipped upside down. We practice breathing in tight spaces.  As we practice we may find that our mind begins to quiet and we may not feel so panicked.  We begin to understand that we are surviving in the tight squeeze; we are okay.  We practice this on the mat, in a safe and supportive environment, so that when Life comes in like a roaring tide with all of its uncertainty, we have stored within our bodies and minds the memory of how to appropriately deal with stressful situations.  We instinctively turn to our breathing, locking our minds into that rhythm and flow, so we can begin to calm our nervous systems and, consequently, begin to realize more options for ourselves, even if that means simply accepting that in some scenarios breathing is all we can do; breathing is enough.
So inversions are not just some kind of strange bodily configurations that we can show off at parties.  They are important teachers that come to us through the magical practice of Yoga, showing us that we can survive being flipped upside down; we can embody grace under pressure.
Happy flipping and breathing!

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