I chose to include several hip openers in my challenge because many yogis have a love/hate relationship to them.  They feel divine to some, and make others want to run and hide.  I’ve had experience with both ends of the spectrum.  Having flexible strong hips can help with low back pain, knee, and even ankle problems.  If you are in to the more esoteric aspects of hip openers, these poses help activate the sacral chakra which is the energy centers of sexuality, emotions, and creativity.  Many yoga practitioners talk about the flood of strange emotions they feel while holding these hip openers for an extended period of time.  I’ve had similar experiences in the next pose, Frog or Mandukasana.

Frog I like to roll my mat underneath my knees to give them more cushion. Start off on hands and knees and slowly bring knees apart to a wide stance. Keep your feet in line with your knees. Your knees should be in line with your hips. You can rest on your forehead, forearms, or on blocks. Pull your belly in to your spine to protect your low back. Try staying here for 1 minute to start.

In this pose, notice the thoughts that come up. For me, it was “My hips are going to dislocate.” “I’m going to fall.” “Why is the person behind me touching my feet?!” “Get out of this!” “Do anything else, but this!” These things will kind of whirl around in your head like a tornado. I talk a lot about breathing while holding poses because it’s a tool to focus the mind. One of the biggest challenges for me was learning to differentiate discomfort from pain.

At the beginning of my yoga practice, I perceived any discomfort as pain. When you suffer from depression and anxiety as I have in the past, you are uncomfortable a lot of the time, but instead of building up a tolerance, you just get hypervigilant. The mind says, “Oh, more discomfort? Screw that. I’m out.” I eventually became more brave and started using my breath to focus and be with discomfort. Unfortunately, instead of using it to connect to the body, I do what many “gold-star yogis” do and try to breathe my way through physically painful things. I started subscribing to the “No pain. No gain” mantra. I injured my body doing this. Breathing through pain is just letting the pendulum swing to the other side of the spectrum.  I was living from complete self-indulgence to full on self-abuse.  BOTH are damaging to the body and to the self.

Focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.  Notice your thoughts, but come back to breath.  In and out.  Inquire within about your limits, mentally and physically.  I can’t do it.  Is it true?  In and out.  Find the difference between discomfort and pain.  Ask.