This is a big pose. Of course you need a good level of flexibility in your shoulders, hip flexors, and spine to start approaching it safely. But I often find, that the biggest hurdle is a lack of strength or a lack of understanding that strength is required in a deep backbend. It seems that once we drop back from the kneeling position, we get disoriented, adrenaline from the freshly squeezed kidneys rushes in, and we lose our composure. Our low back crunches, we feel like we're going to die, we forget to breathe let alone think about our hips and legs working, and we drop the head to the floor and barely touch our toes. We take a few labored breaths, and then struggle to find our legs and wake our hips to bring us back up, hoping that the teacher is nearby and can help.
Yes, I've been there, complete with panic attacks as I approached this pose in the sequence. The desire to run away from my mat has never been so strong as when I've approached this particular backbend. The aluminum taste of adrenaline is a real sensation; it's hard to not react.
The beauty of kapotasana, and perhaps why it can be so daunting at times, is that strength has to be present along with softness. The strength is more than just the physical strength of your hips, but an internal strength that sees the fear and instead of reacting to it, chooses to take another breath and create space. It's the type of strength that one can rely on; the kind of strength that supports and inspires growth. The softness is more than just boundless bendiness; it's a conscious willingness to open in the face of vulnerability, not out of blind faith, but with the knowledge that the foundation is there to support you. This is a posture that teaches us courage and uses the tangible physical body to teach us about relationships. It is no wonder that it makes some of us want to run.