When You’ve Been Practicing Yoga for Four Years and Suddenly One Day Your Poses Look Like You Just Started…
Last week our family took a four-day vacation. The first morning of our trip before we left I had a really good practice. I was grateful because I had been having some issues in my hip that had slowed my practice down. On our trip, we stayed at some Airbnb’s which gave me nice space to do some shortened but quality morning practices. The drive back was long, but it was worth it because we had a great time and got to visit our daughter in the mountains where she was a ranger for the summer. The long drive home was Friday. Saturday and Sunday I felt good and was really looking forward to Monday when I could return to my practice at the studio.
I woke before my alarm feeling refreshed and glad for some extra early morning time before heading to the studio. After a short time, some nausea started to surface. There was a vague swelling in my throat and I realized I was not going to make it into the studio for my regular practice. It just felt wrong to go despite my plans and desires. After a while the nausea was gone and I went to my mat at home to start my practice. As I did my opening sun salutes I noticed extra tightness in my left pelvic area and decided I needed to do a bridge-prep stretch supported by blocks that would stretch the stiff area. The sensations in the pelvis spread up the side and down the leg with intensity. I closed my practice not thinking too much beyond “it’s time for a castor oil bath”. But the intensity grew through the day and into the next two days and then slowly it started to wane on day three. I kept thinking “I haven’t done anything. What has caused this?” I was looking to blame something for my pain and figure out how to avoid this again.
We humans think we should always be comfortable. It’s normal. And when something gets to be uncomfortable it is “wrong”. We naturally avoid discomfort at all costs! That is how I got such the flabby, un-toned body that I brought to yoga on day one. Discomfort is part of the package of growth.
I decided to try to practice Thursday morning no matter how bad it looked or felt. My legs were crooked in down dog. I had to hobble my way to stand up. But I kept going, and it got better. I felt sensations that I knew some of my beginning students feel and my compassion grew. My understanding of how the muscles link together grew. My creativity to modify poses grew. Giving myself permission to do the practice “as is” got me to the mat. I made it all the way through standing and the first few seated poses before a short closing. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. And my body felt better. And I felt proud of my determination to face my altered practice.
Today is Friday. I knew my practice was not going to be “normal”. I was even thinking of resting instead, but there was this instinctual thing that happened after morning prayer with my family that said “You will feel better if you do a headstand”. Almost without thinking I prepped against a wall and was going to go up any way I could allowing my feet to rest on the wall at will just to get the stretch and make the stiff chain of muscles feel better. I had no plans for good technique going into the queen pose. To my surprise my right leg went up and my left leg followed without touching the wall. It felt easy to hold the pose.
How did I do that?? Why doesn’t that happen every time? My best guess is that YOGA HAPPENED! There was a union of everything “me”. My thinking brain was out of the way and something deeper took over.
I thought I was going to rest instead of practice today, but now I wanted more yoga. More of the put-together feeling I was feeling. I rolled out my mat which inspired my husband to come join me which was a nice bonus. I began my regular invocation followed by Sury A’s. I was noticing how there was a long muscle chain all along my left side from neck all the way down my leg. In down dog there was a stretch through that side that I had never experienced before. Not because I had never done the pose before, but because I had never done it with my body in that current state before! I let instinct take over which led to various poses to stretch where my body was asking for it. I was reluctant to return to the bridge-prep on block pose that I had “blamed” for the pain I had experienced through the week. A voice told me I needed to do that pose. Yes, it was what got me here, but it was the same thing that will help me progress now.
I kept thinking, if someone were to watch my practice today from the outside, they wouldn’t be impressed by what they saw. Is that why I do yoga? To impress people with my poses? No. It is to feel union with myself like today and to feel closer to my Creator.
I don’t know how to help beginners understand that the goal of yoga is internal. It is not to achieve a certain way a pose looks. I couldn’t help thinking that way myself and still do many days. The way a pose looks on the outside can look drastically different from day to day. But, on a day that you’ve been practicing yoga for many years, or months or weeks and suddenly one day your poses look like you just started, you can feel grateful because you ARE just starting… with a brand new you! How cool is that?