My challenge officially comes to a close tomorrow. And I have lots of sore muscles and a few new discoveries in my practice to show for it.
few observations from my month of consistent practice. To start if off, here's a quote that stuck out to me over and over though out this month:
As a yoga teacher, I firmly believe that incorporating a steady practice can and will benefit your life for the better. That being said, even after embarking on this challenge, that I would be lying in bed trying to go to sleep and realize that I hadn't "practiced." For the purposes of this month, I went ahead and did some chill out in bed (or on couch) yoga. Supta Virasana or Viparita Kirani being the two favorites. One thing that yoga does whether you like it or not, it opens you. It opens muscles of course, but also it opens your subtle body, your hidden most feelings and desires and failures. All of that can and will someday come pouring out on your mat... and to be honest... there are some days where I just couldn't deal with the possible unraveling of myself. And that's okay. While this avoidance isn't advisable long term... it's okay to let something marinate and to not release it just because you don't want to. That's your choice. But know why you are making it. And remember that your problems will be there waiting for you with or without practice, so someday you might need to "bite the bullet" so to speak, and face those feelings and start to unravel some of the knots of your subtle body.
In that same breath - yoga doesn't solve everything. It simply gives you the tools to ride out the waves that life hands to you. Yoga will not increase your paycheck, get your roommate to finally clean the bathroom, keep your boss from aggravating you, stop your mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, or girlfriend from nagging you about that one thing that just sets you off. But what it will do, is give you the tools of awareness and breath to guide you through those experiences. No one is perfect and we all can, and will, react to things with displeasure when they happen, but yoga can give you that chance - that chance of a second breath to realize while you have no means to control the actions of others, you can and are more than able to control your own actions.
Yoga is more than asana. While asana (the physical expression of yoga poses) is what brought me to this practice, as it does so many of us, yoga is anything you want it to be - it is bringing your breath, body and mind into harmony. And, as I briefly touched on, sometimes "yoga" needs to be the exact opposite of asana. Sometimes it is just sitting and appreciating your breath, letting the melting pot of this world continue to swirl around you without your hand in the proverbial pot.
Lastly, and probably the most important thing I am taking away from this experience, is that a practice can be anything you choose it to be. You do not need to practice 90, 60, 30, or even 15 minutes for it to count. If swinging your legs over the edge of your couch for 5 minutes calms your mind and deepens your breath... that's a practice. Anything that brings you closer to your authentic Self, the Self that is there despite of any external expectations or illusions that might be present in everyday society, is a practice. Above all I hope this is the one thing I take away from this experiment, and if anything I hope it can serve helpful to any readers out there. A yoga practice needn't be long or particularly difficult, or even effort-full. It is something you absolutely can incorporate into your life with minimal time and dollop of presence of mind and effort to do so.
Even as this month closes, and thus completes my challenge, it is my goal to continue to post here photos, stories or any other little something that comes up as I continue to maintain a practice on a daily level. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions as I move forward with this blog. I appreciate your reading and wish you nothing but light and love.
When I first started practicing yoga, I would only do so in a public class. I also only attended classes that were "yang" or more active, almost always Vinyasa Flow. Yoga became a way to get my "ya yas" out - to physically exhaust my body, which then in turn allowed for my mind to calm and release the mental chatter (vrittis) of everday life. In fact, when I first began my practice, I had been suffering from fairly frequent anxiety attacks which almost immediately after I began practicing with regularity, completely dissipated.
My first experience with a more restorative class was during my teacher training I remember the day we practiced restoratives I had the *worst* savasana I had ever experienced. I kept feeling my thoughts popping against the insides of my eye balls trying to get out and every fiber of my being was itching to move. At that point I decided slow yoga just wasn't for me. That is until I found my way into a class at Back Bay Yoga Studio (which would eventually become my yoga home) with Ame Wren (who little did I know would become one of my beloved mentors) - Vinyasa with Deep Relaxation. It was at 6:15pm on a Saturday that I happened to have off from my teacher training and I needed to get out of the house. I figured that the Vinyasa portion of the class would make up for the so called "relaxation" portion and I'd hopefully be able to scratch my itch for movement. The class was exactly what I needed, about 45 minutes of warrior flows and then about 45 minutes of cuddling with a bolster. While in a prone twist over the bolster I felt my jaw relax and my body start to soften completely (and I'm pretty sure a little bit of drool started to form in the corner of my mouth. It was heavenly. Thus began my love affair with yin and restorative yoga.
Now almost a year and a half later, when I have been coming to my mat the last week for this yoga adventure I am on - every single day I have been doing some sort of yin/restorative flow. Odd, considering my intentions are usually to get a few Sun A & B's in there and play around with some inversions. After I center myself on my mat, my gaze settles on my bolster and... it's all over from there. Rather than trying to force my body to do what my mind believes it should be doing, I have been trying to practice what I preach and not think about it too much. If my body wants to chill out in child's pose hugging a bolster for 5 minutes - so be it!
One of the biggest challenges in a practice (or I would venture to say, in life) is to accept yourself and your needs regardless of whether or not they match up with your preconceived notions of what you should be doing. Embrace your self in the moment and don't worry about going off the path your teacher sets forth for you. As teachers we are able to give suggestions and keep your practice safe, but you are the only one who can judge what your body needs in the given moment. So, go ahead and rock out a handstand on the way to chaturanga or take your savasana a half an hour early, as long as you are working from a place of authenticity rather than from your ego - your body will thank you for it.
Light and Love.
Yoga Teacher based in Boston, MA. Teacher of Yoga Teachers. Committed to teaching anatomical, alignment & action based yoga asana that is rooted in mindfulness, skillfulness, & specificity.