My yoga practice began when I was pregnant with baby number three back in 2003. After he was born, and I had three kids under six years old, my practice essentially paused until I began my first yoga teacher training in 2008.
At that point, I was practicing yoga a minimum of 16 hours a week in addition to practicing Kung Fu — and I’d never felt stronger. I needed that strength, because it was during that time that I was going through my divorce, and things were declining at a rapid pace.
I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, so it’s not lost on me that I had these tools at the ready during that difficult time of my life.
Twelve years later, my yoga and meditation practices have been paused and renewed, tweaked and refined due to injuries, enthusiasm, and determination. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process, and I thought I’d share some of my personal observations about how my yoga practice has impacted my life.
Inner And Outer Strength
At times I’ve felt physically strong and emotionally fragile — and then exactly the opposite. I’ve been shocked at what my body has been capable of and surprised at my emotional strength at times where I would’ve thought I’d be a pile of snot on the floor.
It’s through my yoga practice that I’ve been able to build physical strength as well as quiet my mind (which is definitely more difficult than doing even the most intense yoga pose). My yoga mat has been my church, my friend, my enemy, my avoidance technique, and my therapist. And every time I show up to practice — be it at the studio or in my family room, gently stretching or working up a sweat — I’m proving to myself just how much of a bad ass I am.
I can honestly say that I’m way less of a road-rager than I was before spending time on my mat. I’m also more patient with my body and its limitations — which has honestly been more challenging than resisting the urge to lay on the horn at the knuckle head in front of me on the road. Through the years I’ve had several injuries that have caused me to modify yoga poses, both during my personal practice as well as my time leading a class. While it can be frustrating to not be able to do what I have in the past, it’s a great way for me to meet myself where I’m at in that precise moment. And that’s a gift in and of itself.
There have been times when a teacher would demo a pose and I’d think, “Yeah, right! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.” And then I’d give it a try. Sometimes the results were impressive, other times I’d be cracking up at myself. But in each instance, I knew that that was just a snapshot of where I was at that day. (See how it’s tying in with the sections above?!) It’s only when we enjoy the whole process that we can keep the process sacred without being overly serious.
I’ve been flexible for as long as I can remember. As a yoga teacher, that’s come in handy. Until it didn’t. Teaching so much and not being completely aware of the subtleties of my body wreaked havoc on my poor muscle attachment points — things I didn’t learn in my training back in the day. Now I ease off and hold back in going as deep as I can in poses, because just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I used to think that being a perfectionist was a good thing. My attention to detail and need to have things just so, I thought, showed my integrity and made me a cut above the rest. These feelings caused me to hold back on producing classes and courses because I didn’t know *everything* there was to know on the subject. This also held up a nice big mirror on some other insecurities that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
But now I see the need to be perfect in a different light. I no longer have to do a pose perfectly, I am allowed to have the occasional typo, and don’t have to know the answer to every single thing related to yoga. And as I’m in the process of creating new yoga programs, I keep reminding myself that done is better than perfect. Because perfect will hold me back from sharing all the goodness that I want to.
Trusting My Body’s Wisdom
There’s the old adage “With age comes wisdom.” I’d like to think that’s the case with me. Another way that I look at it is “With limitations comes figuring some shit out.”
In addition to the various and sundry injuries I’ve had through the years, I’ve also been diagnosed with some health issues that have, at times, made moving like my usual self near impossible. But move I still do. And, according to my neurologist, it’s the reason that I’m in as good of shape as I am. Not “good shape” like I’m going to wear a bikini to teach in but rather that I’m not bed-bound and taking hefty pain meds.
One of my 2020 goals is to get even more movement in my life. And the only way I’ll be able to fulfill that goal is if I move in ways that are appropriate for what my body needs that day. That translates to sometimes me needing to make myself do more cardio, other times it means I need to work on myofascial release and call it a win. And I’ll know what’s best for me each day because I’ll take an honest look at where I am physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I meet myself there.