Yoga Tip: Locust Pose – Mental Flexibility leads to Physical Breakthrough

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Day in & day out over the course of years I have been privileged to observe how the bodies of studio members transform as a result of regular yoga practice. Often the individuals themselves fail to notice the changes … perhaps because they feel uncomfortable recognizing life-enhancing shifts within their own bodies. Sounds strange? Doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t we want to take note of positive actions that nourish the nucleus of our own lives? My theory is that most of us have allowed ourselves to be overwhelmed by the ambient powers of doubt and fear that pervade the airwaves and psychic jetstream. For this reason it is crucial to celebrate/share the personal victories in our own community … over and over again … because there is so much density/confusion obstructing the journey to personal empowerment. Please know that there is a lot to celebrate.

Locust (Salabhasana) is a posture filled with paradox. On one hand Locust heals chronic stiffness in elbows and wrists. Here are its other benefits: Even more potent than Cobra in cure of back pain/spinal problems such as gout, slipped disc, scoliosis, kyphosis, lumbral spondylosis & sciatica … draws blood to the sacral area, recharges nervous system, clears out cholesterol in veins, good against varicose veins, low blood pressure, & heart patients … increases circulation of blood & lymph … strengthens immune system & revitalizes thyroid.

With all these obvious benefits, Locust remains a posture which many yogis resist. Often I see expressions of dread on people’s faces when I announce, “Next posture is Salabhasana (Locust Pose).” Yes, I know. Many of you worry about straining your elbows … so you bend your elbows, which only increases the strain … then you develop a resistance to doing the posture. Please let me share a story.

About a year ago Bob (from 9am class) injured his wrist (outside of yoga class … probably in martial arts). Did he stop coming to yoga? No. Did he stop doing Locust? No. What Bob did was turn palms the other way (facing up … instead of normal downward position). When elevating both legs, Bob clenched his hands into fists. Week after week he continued to do Locust … attending 4 classes per week. As his teacher, I occasional challenged Bob to change his grip. But Bob listened to his body. He always maintained straight elbows and wrists. But it was months before he turned his palms downward … at first with single leg … only recently did I notice that Bob had both hands facing down and flat in both legs. Bob had informed me about his injury (please take note: it is wise to tell us when you are working through injuries or temporary challenges). So I was aware that he was healing an injury. At the same time part of my job involves coaxing individuals to explore the realm of breakthrough.

What is important to learn from Bob’s experience?

1. Bob has healed his wrists & I’ll wager that his elbows and wrists are more supple than at any time in his adult life. Did he experience pain during these months of challenge? Of course he did.

2. The quality that I invite you to learn from Bob is mental flexibility. Each time he did Locust Pose, Bob was mentally alert … not worried or fear-driven about the pain in his wrist … he made modifications which did not compromise the integrity of the posture … but which allowed him to work within his physical limitation to bring about incremental healing every time he did the pose. In short, Bob utilized mental flexibility to breakthrough fear and the trauma of an injury. This quality of mental flexibility is essential to long-term wellness. I encourage you to take inspiration (as I do) from Bob.

3. Here are acceptable modifications (always keeping the goal of getting to the ideal alignment of palms facing down with sides of pinky fingers, hands, wrists & forearms touching … like you’re preparing to hit a volleyball): With straight arms you may spread hands apart or turn palms other way. Please remember that modifications are useful only as a temporary crutch to be discarded when no longer necessary. And please NO BENT ELBOWS.

As the teacher I’ll admit that over these months I silently questioned whether Bob was babying his wrists. I refrained from expressing this sort of language to Bob. And I learned the combined value of patience & persistence from him. I believe that all of us can learn (teachers too) from our shared practice. By practicing & mastering this quality in the yoga studio, mental flexibility can spill over into other arenas of our personal & professional lives in wonderful unexpected ways. Please share your personal victories with those with ears to hear.  Namaste.