The accidental yogi
Connecting with the Camel
I generally consider myself an animal lover, however there is one particular dromedary that I am currently struggling to connect with. You know the one I mean – it’s about 22 poses into the Bikram yoga sequence, all elegant and lean as it arches backwards and opens up the chest. Yes my yogi friends, I’m talking about the Camel.
I don’t know when exactly the Camel and I started disagreeing with each other. I have a vague memory of being able to reach my ankles with my hands about a year ago… though perhaps it was just a dream, as they certainly can’t get anywhere near there at this point in time. I think for about the last 12 months at least, we have definitely not been getting along.
Every day – oh ok, we all know I don’t go to practice every day, let’s say every class – I find my mind starting to fill with dread as we move our way through the floor positions. Even though I really enjoy the floor positions, I just can’t seem to get the little voice out of my head that whispers ‘the Camel is coming, the Camel is coming’ like one may have done in those days when the aforementioned animal transported mail, fabrics and even opium through harsh conditions!
To me, the Camel quickly became one giant hump that I just could not get over in class. I attempt to gracefully flip out of Savasana and rise to my knees, placing them hip width apart. I try to lift my chest and tip my head back and then WOOOOSH! I am overcome with the hottest of hot flushes, I see millions of little stars and I feel so nauseous and dizzy I am certain I am going to faint if I don’t sit back down immediately. “Are you dizzy?” Sebastien asked me, a long time ago, when he first noticed me struggling with the Camel. “Don’t worry, it’s normal.” So I’ll get used to it, I thought. This must happen to a lot of people. It will come with practice. With time.
But it didn’t come. The hump just kept getting bigger and bigger until I even reached a point when I would just stay in Savasana to avoid doing it. Or lift myself off my mat and bring myself to my knees in slow motion, lifting my head just as I knew Sebastien would be telling the class to lie down again. I’d use the opportunity to wipe my face with my towel and take a big gulp of water (my classic avoidance moves) before returning to the floor. I was cheating at yoga but it didn’t feel good, the way it does when you sneak a piece of chocolate while you’re doing a detox. It felt wrong.
“Just try,” Sebastien’s voice floats over the studio the next time the class begins to lean back into Camel and I’m certain he’s aiming it at me. “Don’t give up,” he continues as I sink into my mat, breathless and with a spinning head. “I just… I just can’t,” I mumble, wishing my mat would swallow me whole as the rest of the class reach for their ankles with grace and poise. When I get the chance to speak to him about it outside of class, he tells me that sometimes the poses you are grappling with have nothing to do with your physical flexibility or abilities; but rather, aspects of your life that are troubling outside of the class.
Great. I thought yoga was supposed to be my time to escape from daily life and now you’re telling me my subconscious is going to butt in? Being the online yoga sleuth I am, I quickly took to my friend Google to try and unravel the mystery as to why I just cannot make friends with the Camel.
The Camel, it seems, brings up your emotions. The pose exposes each and every one of your chakras, putting you in quite a vulnerable state. The Camel addresses your stress levels and anxiety, by forcing you to slow down and pay attention to your body, your heart and your breath. Ahhh… so these are the culprits. Emotions, stress and anxiety. It’s like the Camel is a therapist, trying to help me process everything in my life and give me mental clarity (note: a therapist who doesn’t charge over 100€ per hour!).
So basically, I need to conquer the camel in order to help me deal with my issues with the camel. It sounds like I’m talking in circles but now I know what I’ve got to do. It’s all about perseverance… like a trusty, sturdy old camel making its way through the desert. I want to welcome the camel into my practice. I need to relax into the pose and accept and be conscious of these physical feelings and emotions rather than fighting them. I just have to ride them out (excuse the pun).