The Winding Road Home
The path isn't straight. It never is. The path home is always to myself.
I began doing yoga full time in 2001. That means 4 - 8 times a week. I felt awesome in my body, no major aches or complaints. That continued until 2009 when Yoga Flirt came into my life. My asana (traditional yoga poses) dropped to two times a week.
It's been a little over 6 weeks now that I have returned to asana 5 days a week. I didn't realize how far from home I had traveled until I came back. This is a good thing, and also parts of me are a little sad for having been lost.
Wow, my body! From top to bottom - I'd had a serious pain in the left side of my neck for about 2 years that had in the last year also moved over to the right. This past summer there were days when I had to cradle my neck in my hand in order to lift my head off the pillow each morning. In the last 6 weeks the left side now feels fine, the right almost entirely better. I know it'll be fine in a couple of weeks.
My shoulders no longer crunch and crack when I lift my arms up overhead. My left elbow and wrist had developed "pole elbow", swelling and pain similar to tennis elbow or tendinitis, to the point where clasping my hands behind my back was not doable. Now there's just a tiny twinge in the wrist, also sure to be gone soon.
I've regained range of motion in my shoulders and the front of my chest. I'm more open and expansive.
The left side of my low back had gotten "slippery", I could feel vertebrae slide out of alignment and grind back into place, especially in twists and some standing balances. Gross and scary! This is mostly gone, especially when I move with great care and attention to not only alignment but also engagement. My low back strength and stability will most likely take a little longer to bring back on-line, but I can feel it on it's way.
Hips, knees and feet all feel great with very little popping and cracking. My quads and hip flexors are softening and elongating, my hamstrings are getting stronger. Both of these contribute to more stability in my pelvis and less low back discomfort.
Overall I'm leaner, lighter, and my joints are more fluid and lubricated.
On the subtle side, my breath has become more expansive. An overly strong body, as mine had become, limits spaciousness and the ability to move breath around the body.
Prana, our life force, travels on the vehicle of the breath. Being able to move the breath around the body more fully and with more expansion has brought in more prana. I have more energy, am more productive, and am waking up ready for my day an hour to an hour and a half earlier. I no longer feel depleted and like I "have" to go do my day or go teach. I'm eager and ready for life.
I've got shiz going on behind the scenes of my life just like you. And yesterday, I cried. (side note: that's the title of an awesome book by Iyanla Vanzant) Even with life's stressers, frustrations, and scariness my mood, attitude and outlook are far more elevated than they have been in a long time. Jai prana!
My daily anxiety levels are almost non-existent, due to being grounded. One of the things that sort of makes me sad is knowing I began experiencing elevated anxiety and panic after I began Yoga Flirt and so much pole. Being in the air and off the ground ramped those up to extra high levels. On the plus side, those experiences have made me a better yoga instructor - that's another post for another day, though.
Pole, as fun and thrilling as it is, was always meant to be a supplement to a full yoga practice. It is a full-body workout, but it is also by nature unbalanced. It tends to more front body strength - biceps, front abs, frontal hip flexors, quads. While I was creative in including back body strength via the wisdom of yoga that is incorporated into Yoga Flirt it isn't nearly enough or as balanced as traditional yoga asana.
Yoga Flirt had taken on a life of its own and I was committed. I had to practice pole at least twice a week. Plus, with my full teaching schedule I was mainly demonstrating and teaching on my dominant side, leading to more imbalance. The un-groundedness and lack of full breathing combined with only getting in traditional asana once or twice a week led me so, so far from home. I wasn't able to give either the energy or the time they deserved and yoga was really the "loser" of the two.
The best thing about pole leading my far astray is how affirming it is to return to home, to my true self and my love. Yoga. Full time. My passion. My heart. My life force.
If you're someone who's tried a little yoga here and there, or maybe you do it once a week or so but have never committed to yoga full time I offer this story to you as inspiration.
Challenge yourself to yoga 3 - 5 times a week for at least an hour per session for 6 weeks. Keep a journal along the way. Make note of what feels good, what doesn't, where the aches and pains are, what changes over time.
Perhaps you, too, will find your way home.