Yoga has taught me a lot of things, and one of them is how important back flexibility is. Many people believe that the key to getting strong looking abs is all about crunches, Russian twists and lots of jumping exercises. Although that does amount to a lot, you need back flexibility as well, especially when it comes to your lower back. When you train your lower back it supports your abs too. Having said that, I'm not a huge fan of back flexibility poses, especially those which you practice while lying on your stomach and pressing your pubic bone towards the floor (example: bow pose). I find it so difficult, and I find it hard to breathe sometimes. Therefore, I make myself do them over and over again. The more I do a pose I dislike, I discover, the better I get at it, and the faster I start to appreciate it.
Combined with back flexibility, shoulder flexibility is essential to a lot of yoga poses. Personally, I have one shoulder which is a lot stronger and a lot more flexible than the other. I'm not entirely sure, but I am pretty much pinning it to be the issue I had in primary school where I fell out of a bunk bed (Haven't slept on the upper level of a bunk bed without barriers since), where I pulled a muscle in my neck. I healed fine, but as a young child I didn't understand the importance in doing the follow up recovery exercises my physiotherapist gave me. I told my parents I had done them, because they were difficult, hard work, and hurt a little bit.
I completely regret that, because that shoulder has not been the same since.
However, yoga has really helped with that. Although I have to be increasingly patient with my left shoulder and make sure not to overdue it, in time it has become a lot more flexible. I realise my shoulder is a lot less stiff during the days when I don't even do yoga, and hurts me a lot less. I really think it is helping.
Aside from that, after a few days (two is enough, actually) of not doing yoga, I start to feel restless. Despite despising the exercises themselves, I love the free feeling and ease my body has after working on my back and shoulder flexibility. Which is how I came to love the wheel pose.
It was a lot of slow progress at first.I found it hard to get into the wheel. My shoulders weren't flexible at that point yet at all, and I didn't realise using your thighs was important when holding the pose. I had limited back flexibility, and when in wheel pose, at first it is incredibly hard to breathe. You're also stretching your throat, which is why. I would get into the pose, and in one second I would let myself back down again. I even stopped practising the wheel when it came up in my vinyasa poses, and I usually listen to my instructor all the time. That's how far the dislike went.
But then I got determined. What was the wheel pose to get me to pause my practice? I started doing it again. I listened carefully to my instructor to know what needed tensing, and what movements my body should be making. Eventually, I realised I could hold it for more than a single second. Gradually, breathing became easier, and you get stronger. Now I love this pose, because it shows a lot of achievement for me.
I'm finally proud to be able to say that I am very satisfied with the way my wheel pose looks. Granted, it does take quite the warm up before I get into it in any practice.
Olivia's Question: Do you have an injury or physical issue which has bothered you for a long time, without getting any better?