Yesterday was a big milestone for me in terms of my yoga practice. Sometimes it is hard to see improvement in something you do regularly.
I was talking to a friend awhile back about yoga and she said “So, can you touch your toes?” And my response was, well, yes. But I have always been able to touch my toes, so that wasn’t really the focus of my physical practice. Which led me to thinking about what was the focus. I have been somewhat vocal on this blog about the mental aspect of practicing yoga, which is truly what keeps me returning to my mat each day (or so). In the beginning though, certainly I had some sort of physical aspiration or focus…There must have been a turning point somewhere when my practice went from external to internal. I cannot, however, remember it for the life of me.
I do remember Downward Dog and how it hurt my wrists and it made my arms ache and I could not for the life of me figure out how it was a resting posture. I remember when I could not get my left arm to cooperate in Eagle. I remember when I could not get my leg past my ankle in Tree. I remember when I thought Dancer was the enemy. I remember when I could not get into a Squat. But I do not remember when I finally made enough progress in these poses that I actually started to enjoy them – it just happened naturally.
As I finished up my New Rules work out yesterday, I noticed that my left wrist was tender. Again. It seems that my left wrist has trouble with repetitive 90 degree angles (such as you find in high plank). And I am pretty positive that this is aggravated by weight lifting. Last night, when I got to Victoria’s class, I knew my wrist was acting up but figured I could eek out the last bit of stability it had before I hit the ‘injured’ phase. And as I started to cringe into my first high-to-low plank I had a major moment…Why was I not listening to my body? What was up with my ego? I immediately got into downward dog and avoided any 90 degree postures for the rest of class. This meant squatting when Victoria said Crow. And getting onto my elbow instead of hand in Side Plank. And using my core to stabilize Side Angle and not my hand. In other words, I modified my practice without having to be told how to.
Physically, this was a milestone for me. I have learned enough about my body, my practice and the basic postures to know how to modify them and still get a satisfying physical workout. In fact, with the focus off my wrist, I was forced to really explore my poses and pay attention to my alignment more so than usual.
So yes, I can touch my toes…but I can also recognize when my body is asking me not to. In yoga, I think that is the point. You get the physical workout no matter what…you will improve in the postures organically with practice. But to learn to listen to your body and not your mind or ego is truly a sign of improvement.