For about the last six months, I’ve been feeling ‘unsettled’ with my Yoga but I didn’t really know why. I’ve been teaching, studying, running Yoga Bliss, running my teenager around, trying to keep on top of my own Yoga Practice, even though my back is really painful. I’ve been in pain for some time now…. A few years probably…
Various suggestions have been made about my age and whether or not Ashtanga Vinyasa is the right practice for my body, but there’s more to it than that. I’d already adapted my practice to suit my energy levels and to balance with the rest of my life. Following various investigations and prolonged enquiries with my teacher and my Physiotherapist it transpires that the ligament laxity that gave me such amazing flexibility throughout my life, has allowed me (I know, I know… I did this to myself) to have the most extreme forward bends and extremely open hips. HOWEVER, the muscles surrounding these too-long ligaments didn’t even know they existed and they didn’t realise that they had a job to do too. I didn’t realise either. If there were ‘warning signals, I was not aware of them, there was certainly no pain, until it was much too late.
So, there I was – teaching, practicing, running a business, with the pain getting worse, my physical practice getting more confusing and the pain in my back preventing me from sitting for meditation. Nothing was working for me…
I’ve been an Ashtanga Vinyasa practitioner for eleven years and teacher for 5 and the mistake I made for a long time was putting my faith, 100% in the system but not as it was meant to be used but from the Western understanding or ‘misunderstanding’ of the practice as I received it. The second mistake I made was not taking responsibility for my own practice. It’s easy to do exactly what your teacher advises without ever actually making your own enquiries and discoveries. It’s easy to get on your mat and go through the motions without ‘awareness’, and it’s easy to blame someone else for your mistakes if you haven’t taken responsibility.
So the first lesson we’ve learned is that just because there is a ‘series’ of asana, whether it be Primary, Intermediate, third… whatever, doesn’t mean we have to do all of it. Just because it exists, doesn’t mean ever body needs every pose. It was never meant to be used in it’s entirety. To cut a long story short, the body I rocked up to the mat with, didn’t need all the years of Primary series. My hips were already open and I could already access my spine easily in the forward bend and lateral hip rotation patterns. Who knew?
I can’t tell you how much pressure I have put on myself to maintain a certain level of practice because I teach. So, the upshot of all of the above realisations is that I am taking a sabbatical from teaching. I need to balance my life and I need to do my Yoga Practice for me, selfish aren’t I? I need to repair my broken body and my dented ego.
When I go back to teaching, I’m sure that this learning experience will make me an even better teacher.
My practice is much more focused on the asana I need to awaken and strengthen the hitherto lazy muscles that will give me some integrity in my lower back again. There’s a lot of back bend patterns – surprise, surprise. There’s a little bit of lateral hip rotation pattern but only to maintain the hip ‘opening’ and not combined with a forward bend (well, maybe a slight one with heart lifted but nothing more extreme than that) It’s a bit of Primary and a bit of Second with a few Pilates exercises thrown in.
So, it’s time to be an ordinary student again. It’s time to rewind and undo some of the unhelpful patterns that I never needed to develop in the first place. It’s no good wishing I knew then what I know now. This was all part of the journey and all part of the lesson.