My teacher made a comment she’s made before but it stuck with me this time… “This is your class. This is your yoga.” It’s a freeing thought. When I compare myself to others who are more flexible, graceful, stronger, it can be frustrating, disappointing and intimidating. Of course, this is not just true for yoga, but when you compare yourself with the prettiest woman in the room, the smartest, etc. you’re probably not going to be too thrilled with the comparison (In fairness, I can hold my own on smarts 🙂
It’s my yoga. I am only comparing myself to myself. It doesn’t matter if I need to drop 20 lbs (I do), how old I am, how feeble some of my poses may look,how my yoga shirt bunches around my belly creating a lovely ring of fat… what matters is me and my effort.
It helps remind me that I can only improve. Granted at a pace slower than I might like, but improve nonetheless. I’ve been going to class for 18 months now. I can now grab my hands under my leg for the beginning of standing head to knee. Can’t get my hands clasped, but that’s next. (I realize some people can do this on day one, but in my yoga, I’m only concerned with me). I can do the full expression of fixed firm, I can get into toe stand, but can’t balance yet, I can get one forehead to knee and one nose to knee in separate standing head to knee… all progress.
I encourage you to look back at your yoga year so far yogis and realize what you’ve accomplished. You may since slipped since that highpoint, but that moment is still yours and you own it. I am thankful for my practice. How about you?
So I have been extremely busy the past 2 weeks and have found it challenging to get to yoga. On the plus side, I have been going to the gym instead–easier to fit in 30 min cardio blasts. On the negative side, last week I only made it to class 2x and today was the first time I had been to yoga in a week. I wasn’t panicking at this point–I knew I’d get back to it… but of course, the longer you’re away, the harder it is to return and I dreaded losing whatever hard fought gains I had made… and taking 2 weeks to catch up. When I got to the studio I saw an old yoga buddy who hadn’t been to class in a couple of months. I assumed he was taking a break, no longer practicing or going elsewhere… but was delighted to see him returning and that made my morning. My class was unremarkable and I definitely found tighter hips and shoulders welcoming me back. That was not fun. My balance was terrible (as it has been for a while in fact). I could no longer get my forehead on my knee for standing separate head to knee pose, I topped over in toe stand, and the list goes on… However, after class, I felt great. That great, calm yoga feeling we all know. I likened to exhaling. It felt like I had been holding my breath all week and just released and relaxed. Of course, I also thought, I really need to get to yoga more. So the plan is to go back tomorrow.
I’ve decided my left shoulder is largely to blame for a lot of my yoga woes. I have sympathy for my poor shoulder and am sure in time, it will improve and maybe even regain its former glory. It is frustrating though. What happened? Well, more than 15 years ago I reverse commuted and was running late. So I was racing down a flight of stairs to catch a train. My should bag somehow got caught on the handrail and while I ran forward, my body jerked back and my poor shoulder (rotator cuff specifically) got caught and I basically did a semi flip. It wasn’t pretty. Physical therapy followed but adding to the fact I wear a very heavy (giant) handbag everyday on my left shoulder, with computer, yoga mat, snacks, etc. the poor thing has taken and continues to take abuse.
And it’s showing. I noticed in class today that in addition to a tight left hip (an old running injury), my shoulder makes a lot of poses hard. For example, impossible for me to place my hands under my ankles in the very early poses. I can’t really do this on my right side either, so it may not be the best example. Standing head to knee. It took me a YEAR to grab my leg and even now, I can’t grip both hands together b/c they left one is barely able to reach.
Wind Removing Pose is another doozy, as my left side can’t really grab far and goes no where close to my right elbow. Not too mention, both shoulders are never on the floor when grabbing my leg, my left side is usually well off the floor and in the air. Seated head to knee pose is similar, my left side just doesn’t reach far and I see it most obviously in the last pose, spine twist when my left hand comes NO WHERE close to my knee to grab it.
I do some extra hip and shoulder warm ups before class and I figure, I’m still getting the benefits (mostly) of the postures if I can keep decent form. Patience I guess is the point of this story fellow yogis. You can’t wish injuries away. You can’t rush them. You can’t cheat them. You can only continue as best you can and hope they improve.
I consider myself a conscientious yogi. I try to sit quietly when I need to take a break, I don’t drink water between postures, don’t make noise, don’t put my mat down in front of others, don’t leave class early, try to smile when the teachers says to…etc. etc. One of the things that often comes up in class is not to fidget. While I’ve seen people constantly tugging at something, fixing their towels, I don’t. I do however, occasionally adjust my hair, my shirt or my towel. And, to be honest, this is the least of my concerns. The only real concern I have is I don’t want to take too long and limit my savassana in any way shape or form. I understand this is part of the process of control, mastering discomfort and focusing, perhaps I’m just at a different level. I’m happy to give it my all in class, and if I need to fidget a little to get comfortable, for now, I’m ok with that. Again, it’s in relative terms, I’m occasionally making adjustments. Why? Well, it’s uncomfortable when your towel completely bunches up. The postures are hard enough. Sometimes my mat moves and I can’t see or I’m in someone’s way. I move it back. I can get itchy when I’m covered in sweat, or my shirt moves and I adjust the straps. I wear a headband and sometimes I move it to stay more firmly on my head. Would I be better off not doing these things? I’m sure I would be on some yogic plane of mastery, but for now my goals are more basic. Do as much of the class as possible, do each posture as best I can and get to class regularly. Fidgeting ranks much, much lower.
I’m on another cleanse, I went on a 3 week one in July. During that period I really felt my yoga get stronger. This cleanse is one is only a week but I thought that it would be interesting to see how my yoga fared. Well today (on Day 3), not so well. I had trouble controlling my breath and I sat down for half a posture. Is it because of the cleanse? Who knows. Could be due to my spin class the yesterday, stress or any number of things. I do believe that hot yoga must help any cleanse, as you can sweat out more stuff you’re trying to get rid of and I learned 70% of toxins are removed through the lungs so I especially paid attention during the 2 breathing exercises.
We’ll see through the week is my yoga is declines or not. I’m drinking enough water to sink a ship so I certainly shouldn’t be dehydrated… Regardless, I am committed to my cleanse, which is an alkaline one, trying to lower acid/inflammation in the body. I often feel like when life gets more challenging and stressful, things like diet and exercise become all the more important as outlets of relief and ways to strengthen. Of course, it’s always during stress that I want chinese food and pizza, go figure.
I will say I had my best standing head to knee experience today (on one side), so although my practice overall was shaky, I did have one standout. How about you?