Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Boobasana: Prone Poses

By Anytimeyoga @anytimeyoga

We’re in class, doing a prone back bending series. Perhaps you have been there. It is, contrary to how the concept of lying down postures should seem, actual work. So I am not ungrateful for the chance to stop at the end of them.

The instructor says, “Exhale all the way onto your stomach and relax completely.”

And I think, “You’re kidding, right? The fuck is this shit?”

Because for me, exhaling all the way onto my stomach — usually demonstrated with the arms lying back by the sides — is not a resting pose. Rather, it is a pose where my breasts push back against my chest, actively impairing the deep, restorative breaths this posture attempts to promote. Furthermore, to rest my forehead or cheek against the floor requires me to crane my neck into what is decidedly not a neutral position.

For a long time — years — I just dealt with it. Because it’s what everyone else was doing. Because it still felt better than staying up in the unsupported back bend. Because no one ever showed me a modification, so I assumed this was how the pose was supposed to feel (and maybe it is? but I don’t think so). Because I did not know another way.

However, as the years have gone by and I’ve gotten older, my neck and shoulders have become more tense and less forgiving. As for my boobs, let’s just say they haven’t gotten any smaller — and in fact, show no plans of even entertaining such a concept.

I’ve grown more comfortable and confident with my body: If a posture isn’t working for me, then the solution is to modify the pose to fit my body rather than to operate on the assumption that my body must conform to the pose. I’ve also become more curious and questioning about my practice: If this is really supposed to feel like a resting pose, then it’s up to me to figure out the modification to make it as restful for my body as possible.

Looking at the position:

Side view of woman lying on floor, head turned away from camera, arms by her sides. There is also clothing visible in the background.

What dirty laundry in the corner? I do not know what you’re talking about.

What’s fairly visible in the pose is that my neck has to lean forward quite a bit for any part of my head to rest on the floor. This means my neck is not in alignment with the rest of my spine, and it’s therefore quite difficult to relax this part of me. What’s less visible is — you see that rounding in my upper back? While some is certainly normal, that is exaggerated on account of the rest of my torso is smushing down boobs, and they just won’t go any farther. By raising my back body farther off the ground, my breasts are — if not causing — at least exacerbating this neck issue.

Since bringing my torso closer to the ground is not an option, the best I can manage is to bring the ground closer to my head, reducing some of that neck angle. Of course, I don’t literally mean that I can move the floor — because if I could, I would just make a small indentation for my boobs, no? — but I can use props so that my neck doesn’t have to reach quite as far down. The easiest prop to use is my hands, as they’re always readily available:

Same woman lying prone on floor. This time, her arms are crossed under her head.

If I know I’m going to be staying there for several breaths, I might slide a folded blanket under my forehead or cheek instead. (No pic of that since I didn’t have one handy. Laundry day soon, you know.)

There are a couple of drawbacks to this modification. The first, though only true with the folded hands option, is that it raises my arms to approximately shoulder height, thus engaging some of my shoulder and upper back muscles. The second, true for both the blanketed and hand-pillow version, is that it places my back into a mild back bend. Since I’m trying to counter other, somewhat deeper back bends, this is not ideal. However, as I tend to have a fairly forgiving lower back but somewhat less forgiving neck and shoulders, the benefit of being able to relax my neck and upper back is worth the compromise of keeping my lower back slightly extended.

Though I should probably note that none of the common prone-starting back bends — cobra, locust, up dog, and bow — are ones that particularly tax my low back to begin with. If they did — and/or for folks where nothing presented here seems to work — pressing back to child’s pose for a few breaths may be another option.

Hmm. I have another prone-related boob problem I was going to talk about, but this post already seems quite long enough. Probably I’ll just have to get to that next time.

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