A while ago I wrote a post called “Is my Bum too big to do yoga?” and I remember it got more reads than my other posts at the time. I think this issue is of perennial interest to people doing yoga… or should I say women doing yoga?… or just women fullstop??
I have been practicing yoga for 4 and a half years now. For the first 2 and a half I was too scared to do any inversions save shoulderstand, because that was the only inversion done in the class I went to at the time. This changed when I started to go to a new *dynamic* studio where everyone handstands everywhere all the time. You can’t move for legs flying everywhere! On my very first class I was treated to the spectacle of a yogini warming up with pincha mayurasana. I say warming up but maybe she was just showing off. Anyway.
I have always struggled with handstand and headstand (“pincha” is off the cards for a long time I think, stiff shoulders) It took many many months to be able to even think about how it may be possible to even attempt to try to get into a headstand. Turns out I had stiff shoulders. A year later I still have to hang out in my shoulder openers to get into a headstand and I’m building up slowly, not straightening my legs until I can hold my knees into my chest for a good while. I practice several times a week doing this and my whole practice has to revolve around readying my body for headstand on these days. I cannot just *pop* into it in a class, and at the end of the Primary Series my shoulders are so stiff from all the chaturangas that it is a laughable concept.
The thing is, I’m fairly sure that it’s not such a difficult thing for other people. I am told that it’s about core strength… but I’m fairly sure I’m stronger in my core than other people who can just magic up effortlessly into the pose… or maybe it’s about fear… but I’m scared at home and I still do it. It seems to take a lot more effort for me to lift into headstands and I think I can begin to understand why…
It’s my bum!
Or more specifically, my whole lower body. I am short: 5 foot 3, and about 5 feet of that is leg. I exaggerate but my proportions are a bit out of whack. I have very long, very substantial legs. I have wide hips, big thighs and… how do I say this politely… an ample bottom. To balance in inversions one must get ones’ shoulders over ones’ pelvis… but the pelvis is a big structure so this takes some effort. Surely it doesn’t take much of a leap to think that maybe it takes more of an effort for me? My upper body is tiny, my lower body is big… my body doesn’t like being that way up. Also any supine abdominal exercises involving leg lowers or the like have always been very very difficult for me. This also makes sense.
I can work with this, and I already am. I think that far from being discouraged at this realisation I feel reassured that I’m doing the right thing in building up my abdominal strength and not rushing into straightening my legs in headstand yet. I’ve started practicing half handstands at the wall but I have accepted that I may never be able to handstand the way the former gymnasts do in my class.
On the plus side right way up balances are substantially easier for me, judging by the amount of wobbling I see in classes. I have a big ballast you see.