The Bendy Blog

Challenge Poses: Facing Fear & Anxiety of New Asanas

By Karen Martin

Bendy Blog category: Teaching Techniques

At a small amusement park along the Jersey shore, waiting with my kids for a turn on the ride, my eyes and ears were drawn to one particular child. High excitement could be felt from the kids in line anticipating glimpses of the ocean, onlookers, and sand sailing by as the ride whirled around. Kids already on the ride were happily screaming and yelling, at times waving to family and friends, their eyes wide with seeing a blur of blue ocean and sky.

Except for one child. One little girl, crying uncontrollably as the ride increased its speed and circular motion. Unprepared for the motion and sensations, her whole being shouted “stop the ride, I want to get off!”

Like the response expressed by the little girl on the ride, trying new things can leave one feeling under prepared, overwhelmed, and over faced. Teens, already grappling with physical and emotional changes, may find trying new experiences daunting while trying to navigate their ever-evolving inner and outer worlds. Awkwardness and shyness can prevent them from trying anything different or novel. They don’t want to appear silly, inept, or clumsy in front of their peers!

Trying new asanas can produce anxiety in a student who feels it is beyond their ability. It gets even worse if they feel they are the only one in class who cannot do the pose! This is a great learning opportunity! An idea to address these concerns is to incorporate “Challenge Poses”.

First, provide and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. Suggest that awareness of the breath is a great aid for the students to gauge their response. Then have the students pick a pose (example: Camel, Crow, or any pose your students find challenging and out of their comfort zone). The students can choose individual poses or all work on the same one as a group.

Example: Camel Pose

Take the pose “apart” by doing it in stages:

  • Beginner (just touching backs of legs)
  • Intermediate (feet flexed, touch heels)
  • Advanced (feet flat, touch heels)

Have the students decide how far to go and how long to stay in the pose (defining edges). Explore adding props (the hands rest on two blocks next to the heels rather than heel touch). This modification makes the pose more accessible.

Give time for exploration. Allow for feedback of the experience. Ask questions; what was felt prior to trying this pose? Was it a positive attitude; I will do this! Or a negative attitude; this is impossible! No way! Discuss how the teens feel about the process. Did they feel self-criticism? Were there feelings of accomplishment, happiness, frustration, or discouragement?

New experiences can test our edges, whirling us way out of our comfort zone. But it also opens us up to new possibilities and a great opportunity for growth.

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