Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yoga is a Journey

About a week and a half ago, the pain started up again.  I was at practice #11 of my 26 in 30 days...2 practice away from my half way mark, when I noticed that Chaturanga was sending excruciating pain through my arm and wrist. By the time I went to bed, I thought I had broken it.  I tried practice #12...on my forearms and knees...and it became clear that I just couldn't do it.

It took the very wise and firm words of a good friend, a good husband, a good teacher, and a good mom to finally convince me to not go to practice the next day.  I had become so fixated on the challenge, so fixated on the number of days in a row that I needed to be on my mat, and the number of days I needed to do doubles in order to achieve my 26 classes in 30 days, that I had become burned out.

My body was burned out. My pain was already making my practice difficult before the challenge started, but somehow I thought that doing yoga every day (and sometimes twice a day!) would make me feel better...that somehow I'd become some super buff yogi chick who could do poses I had only dreamed of.  It did make me feel better for a while, but with little to no recovery time, my body (and my mother!) started telling me loudly that I needed a break.  But I wasn't listening to my body...

My mind was burned out.  I was thinking too much.  I know that yoga is not about competition or forcing anything. Yoga is about acceptance. It is supposed to make you feel good. It is about peace.  It is not about the asanas-- it is about the calm that you feel after you practice. I know that. But my mind was too tired to think about it.  I wanted to finish this challenge. I wanted to prove-- mostly to myself-- that I could do it.  My pain and injuries have already taken away so much. I can't run or exercise like most people.  I can't even rock climb anymore...I felt like giving up on the challenge would be giving up on myself.  My mind (and my good friend, Amy) was trying to remind me what yoga is. But I wasn't listening to my mind...

My spirit was burned out.  I didn't want to be at the studio anymore.  I was resenting the 35 minute commute to and from another town.  I stopped looking forward to yoga, but for some reason I kept forcing myself to go...because of the challenge.  My husband wanted me to stop going-- stop tainting the one thing I had come to enjoy. He wanted me to take a break and rest so that I could look forward to the time I gave myself on my mat.  I wanted to enjoy other aspects of life-- focus on my classroom, my students, my home, my friends-- without feeling guilty for missing yoga.  My spirit needed some alone time with me. But I wasn't listening to my spirit...

I finally gave in to my body, my mind, and my spirit and emailed my instructor.  And she told me to LISTEN TO MY BODY AND MY SPIRIT!!  So, I took a week off.  And it was glorious.  I stayed late at school and caught up in my classroom.  I went to a student football game.  I saw family and wasn't exhausted for a night out.  While I am still trying to accumulate as many practices as I can by September 30th, I will not be able to achieve 26 unless I do doubles every other day, which cannot happen. So, I need to be ok with that. Yoga is acceptance of what is, at this moment.

In coming to terms with the fact that I would not complete the challenge, I started to wonder what exactly I was supposed to learn from the challenge.  Is it a physical challenge? Very few athletic endeavors encourage you to practice constantly with little recovery time.  While is is physically challenging, I don't think that's it.  Is it a challenge to see how dedicated I am? I'm not sure that is it either.  I was dedicated to the point of hurting myself. It took multiple people to convince me to "give up," and yet I didn't feel successful.  What kind of challenge is it, then?

It took "giving up"...or more to the point-- LETTING GO...to realize the challenge.  The challenge was to accept myself as I am, limitations and all...to listen to my body and learn, more than ever, what yoga really is.  Yoga is about being in the world and not of it. It is about living in the moment and accepting the body God gives you at any given time.  Some days God might give me a stronger or more capable body than other days.  But, I need to do the best with what I have that day, and most importantly, I need to accept that what I am doing at any moment is good enough. 

That is my challenge...and I don't think I've completed it yet.  My yoga is a journey.

"The greatest success is doing what you love and believing that’s enough."

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