My Conscious Uncoupling: Yoga Poses I’m Letting Go

Been there, done that.

After two decades of daily practice and a lifelong love affair with yoga, I am announcing a conscious uncoupling from certain poses.

There are no hard feelings. We will maintain a wholeness in our separation that will allow us to co-parent my body, mind, and spirit. We will always have mutual respect for each other, and as a yoga teacher, I will never speak ill of these poses to my body or to other students.

But for now, it has been decided that is it best if we take a different path on the way home.

“I did it, and now I’m letting it go,” a friend said to me recently about finally getting her Sirsasana (Headstand Pose) after months of practice. Me too.

The news of my conscious uncoupling will not come as a surprise to those who have been in my company. The trouble between us has been brewing for a long time. Chronic pain is the biggest, loudest 800-pound gorilla in any room.

When I check into a new yoga class and they ask me to sign the waiver, I just say, “I have it all.” Broken bones, impingements, nerve damage, blown discs; the only thing I don’t have is sciatica. I healed that!

I Have it All, and I Take Full Responsibility

While I have survived many health issues, the latest, I admit, has kicked my ass-ana. I have a tiny fracture in my cervical spine, which has led to a herniated disc and a pinched nerve, which creates pain like a house afire.

My marriage to yoga is one of the most meaningful relationships in my life. When I am sad, my mat makes me happy. When I am happy, my mat says, “You go girl.” Yet every relationship needs fine-tuning. So we’ve decided it might be best to part ways from a few poses. If the pose don’t fit, you must acquit, and although I’m not a quitter, I am going to let these yoga poses go.

The Yoga Poses I’m Leaving Behind

Sirsasana (Headstand Pose)           

Once upon a time, I could do all eight variations. Even hands-free I was fairly stable. I have a core made of concrete. I practiced timings and enjoyed all sorts of transitions in arm balances. I can do Sirsasana II (Tripod Headstand Pose) to Eka Pada Koundinyasana I (Sage Koundinya’s Pose), which translates to “badass.”

I thought for years that because I knew how to do it, that I could do it. Wrong. Today I’m concerned that Headstand could be contraindicated for anyone with fragile bone health, such as cancer survivors. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I will still teach this pose to interested students. It is the “king” of all postures, and as such, I will give it the respect it deserves. But personally, we are going our separate ways.

Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand Pose)

I love this pose. My cervical spine is nowhere near the mat when I am vertical. I nearly levitate off the ground. My longest timing was 20 minutes. I am not uncoupling (yet), but we are going to date cautiously, and for any long holds I’ll be on blankets using a chair for support.

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

It still feels okay to do a few a day. But I recently practiced Series 1 of the Ashtanga sequence, and let’s just say there really is too much of a good thing. Strong boundaries make good friends.

Independent Inversions

I am not giving up Pinca Mayurasana (Forearm Stand Pose) or Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand Pose), but I think at this point with brittle bones it is irresponsible for me to practice inversions in the middle of a room. The message it sends is not “be fearless.” The message is, “I’m an idiot.”

Ustrasana (Camel Pose)             Ustrasana

Camel Pose is not bad for my neck if I could keep my head level. But this is not one of my favorites, so I’ll be substituting other backbends that bring me joy. Why? Why not! I’m going to focus on the things that bring me joy and let all the rest go, just because I can.

I’m sure there will be other poses in the future that, like a night of decadence, feel good until the morning after. But for now, I am practicing with restraint, and believe me, that is the most radical thing I’ve ever done on the mat.

More on this topic from special contributor Charlotte Bell – Does Your Yoga Practice Feed You? Develop a Practice to Feed your Body and Mind.

Restoring Prana: Key Roles of the Diaphragm in Health and Vitality a course with Robin Rothenberg and YogaUOnline.

Reprinted with permission from TheYogiMuse.

Michelle MarchildonMichelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of three books on yoga including “Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga.” She is an E-RYT 500 Hatha teacher in Denver, Co. You can find her wherever books are sold, or at 

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