Theresa H.

“…my body is improving, my mind is more open and my spirit is calmer.”

I am “supposed to be” grading papers right now. But I got sidetracked with your October BYR web page and the article about milestones. It is appropriate for me because just in the past month or so, I have been noticing some things that I thought might be of interest to share for some of the not so flexible of us.
I have been practicing yoga for I think three years. It was off and on until the past year when I became more committed to it. I started with soft tissue injuries and I am still nursing those injuries. Not because of yoga but because I have a hard time being patient with taking it easy and letting my body heal. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. It’s the American Way, right? Some of my friends tell me it is the “type A” way.
Well, I have taken that attitude into the yoga studio. I put as much of myself as I can into each class. I want to put my head to my knee, I want to balance in toe stand, I want to look like a Japanese ham sandwich, I want my chin to touch my shoulder. I’ve worked hard for years and I wonder why am I not improving? Why aren’t I more flexible? Why can’t I balance better?
Then, a few months ago, as we were going into a Savasana, I chuckled to myself as I recalled the “3 – 2 – 1” that one teacher used to frequently say as she coaxed her students to efficiently get into the resting pose. When I first started, my body hurt so badly that it was painful to get myself out of a posture and turn around to lie down for another Savasana. It was painful, slow, and awkward. I often held my breath. I would get irritated at the “3 – 2 – 1” instruction or the reminder that we want to get there as soon as possible so our circulatory system could do it’s magic. Didn’t they know I was going as fast as I could? Sometimes I would get into Savasana just as instructions started for a sit up; another painful ordeal. Now I easily flip over and glide to position; start breathing rhythmically and wish it would last a bit longer.
This caused me to think about my journey and I recalled how the two minute Savasana used to seem interminable. I would wiggle my feet, rock my head a little, fidget with my fingers. I thought I would explode before the two minutes were up. I just couldn’t relax into it. Remembering this made me realize how far I have come. The two minute Savasana could go on for five minutes and I would be just as good to lie there a few more.
The heat used to distract me so much I couldn’t hardly stand it and I thought I would never make it through the balancing series (but of course, I always did). Now, I am surprised how quickly tree and toe stand come up, and it is rare I feel “too hot”. When I thought of all this, I realized how far I have come. Even though I still have back pain, it isn’t nearly as severe as it used to be. I understand my body better and am learning to listen to it. I now know what it feels like to be at my maximum stretch for that particular day and I know better than to go beyond that. I know that no two days are alike. I understand now that as form improves, balance needs to be adjusted.
So maybe I can’t balance in toe stand or get my body parallel to the floor in standing bow but I do have measurable milestones that show me my body is improving, my mind is more open and my spirit is calmer. It’s important to recognize that, to own it, to celebrate it. Yoga is a great metaphor for life. Each day is a new beginning and we only have the moment. Make the best of it and appreciate all that you have.