In Yoga Thoughts

The Not-So-Pretty Backbend That I’m Coming To Love

When I first discovered country music, my children were very small – 5, 3 and 1 to be exact. This was a time (perhaps the last time) when they were learning about music from me, so my love affair with these songs that told stories became a true family affair. We were driving home from swim lessons one day listening to the country station when we heard a song we’d never heard before – Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It.” Because my kids were singing along with the chorus before the song was over, I impulsively drove to Barnes & Noble to buy the CD.

That evening remains one of the sweetest in my memory. As we waited for my husband to come home, we had that song blasting through the house on repeat. All four of us (the baby giggling wildly in my arms) were dancing like crazy people in the living room as we sang along – “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it!” Ask any of us. Even today, when it comes on the radio, together or not, we all still sing along with a little more passion (and a little more southern twang) than we typically do.

Despite Tim McGraw’s catchy lyrics, liking something is not actually a prerequisite to loving it. This is something anyone who has ever celebrated a holiday with extended family has certainly experienced. Come on! Admit it. We all have “that” uncle or cousin or sibling or grandparent or (gasp!) child who has “moments” that require some deep breathing. Heck. It’s conceivable that you and I are “that” person for someone else!

Love does not require liking. Not all the time and not all aspects, at least.

My husband says he doesn’t like going to the gym in the morning, but he loves the way he feels during and after his workouts. He especially loves knowing that he is staving off the physical infirmities of aging. So if you ask him straight-up if he likes going to the gym, I think he’d say, “I don’t like it, but I love it.”

My youngest (that babe-in-arms on that long-ago night), would say almost precisely the same thing if you asked her about school. She doesn’t like the homework or taking notes or having to hold still for most of the day. But she told me just last night that she loves “learning stuff” and she really loves “knowing stuff,” so she “supposes” that, despite not liking a great deal of what is asked of her each day, she does actually love school.

I do not like backbends. They have never been easy for me. They require all of my naturally tight places to be loose. I spent years (I’m not exaggerating, literally more than a decade) getting just a little comfortable with the most basic of backbends, Wheel or Urdhva Dhanurasana. During that long struggle, one of my teachers suggested I start to work in other backbends. These can be terrifying. They ask you to reach up and drop backwards toward the wall or your heels or the floor. Let’s just say that this did not help my dislike of backbends get any better.

Except that it did.

As I persisted and tried these backbends that I disliked so much every day during my practice, my body slowly changed. My hip flexors started to open up. The range of motion in my shoulders began to increase. And then I began to notice that my back itself was more willing to bend. Today, while I still don’t necessarily like backbends, if asked, I would (almost) say that I love them. Yes, this took fifteen years to say. No, they are still not super pretty to look at. But I love (really, really love) the way they feel and the way I feel inside and out after I do them.

Look around your life. Take an extra close look at the “somethings” or “someones” that make you cringe. Can you say, “I don’t like it, but I love it.”? (I’m not sure even Tim McGraw could make that sound catchy.) If you can, each time you feel that little ripple of dislike, redirect your awareness to the love you also feel. This will make it easier to step up to the task or interaction asked of you. I suspect you may even be able to smile while you do so.

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