The power of perseverance
If you come to my classes then you’ve probably realised that I am not a naturally flexible. I’m not
Relaxing into forward bend
saying this to be self deprecating or looking for praise! I’m genuinely not. I do though practice my yoga daily, to the best of my body’s ability, and I unroll my mat every day not because I want to achieve the perfect posture but because I love my yoga and there isn’t an area of my life where I don’t feel the benefit of a regular yoga practice.
To be honest, this doesn’t make me the most graceful or adept demonstrator, but I believe that it does mkae me an authentic and empathic teacher. Working with my own body has made me pretty good at finding useful lead-ins to postures and working out practical adaptations and modifications, because I’ve had to!
Over the last couple of years I’ve really focussed on what are to me challening postures
. Here are some of the teachings I’ve gleaned, which I hope you find reassuring if you think you’re not flexible enough to “do” yoga.
PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF
Sitting Forward Bend has been in my daily practice for around 20 years. I’ve grown to love the posture over the years, I know it does me good, but it has always been a challenge. When I first started practising seriously I barely moved an inch forwards in this posture, I even used to watch TV sat on the floor, with my legs under a dining room chair, arms relaxed on the seat, so that I could relax forwards completely supported in an attempt to get my body used to relaxing forwards. Slowly over the years I have folded by (often minimal) degrees deeper and deeper. Progress has been glacially slow! I’ve never given up though. About 6 months ago I felt a real shift in this practice, and not only was I folding considerably further forwards (for me!), but I was relaxed as well! My perserverance is paying off. I can also feel that I have released a huge blockage of energy this year, facillitated by my practice of sitting forward bend, which my mind and body feel better for, and it’s this big shift in energy that leads me to my next point.
YOGA IS NEVER JUST ABOUT THE PHYSICAL
Of course we have to look at what parts of the physical body are restricting movement. I ask myself, what do I need to stretch, strengthen or re-align? Do I need to seek help on this matter? Or is it simply a matter of how my body is put together? I also take time to look at what might be causing a restriction on an emotional, mental or energetic level. Usually I do this by practising an energy block release sequence, or using relaxation or meditation time to dig a bit deeper. Each posture works on unlocking something different, that’s why we have so many poses to practice. You can correctly assume from the length of time that it has taken me to get into a more convincing sitting forward bend that I had a lot of lessons to learn and a lot of blocked energy to release! By continuing to check in with myself though, and allow these releases to be gradual and manageable I got there in the end.
ENJOY THE PROCESS AND KEEP YOUR PRACTICE FRESH
I find the way the physical body moves and how it corresponds to yoga teachings effortlessly fascinating, so I really have no problem in finding joy in whatever yoga I am practising – there is always something new to discover. When I come across a challenge, I treat it like a puzzle (I love a sudoku or a crossword 🙂 ). I start by asking myself questions – where do I feel this? What happens if I move this way, or that way? How do feel emotionally, energetically etc? I then go off and research what I need to, so I am always keeping my practice fresh with a new angle to explore. I also know that boredom is a trick of the ego, a way of getting me to stop doing something. I’ve learnt now to be grateful for boredom – it’s a sign that I am on the right track! My ego wants me to stop because it’s not comfortable about what I might discover (the ego doesn’t always have our best interests at heart). This is a reminder that I need to be creative, remain open to learning and possibly refresh the way I am working with a posture, maybe even take a break from the posture, but definitely not give it up.
KEEP A YOGA JOURNAL
A great way of keeping track of what you have learnt, how far you’ve come and what you need to explore is to keep a yoga journal. A journal can provide illumination and inspiration, especially when your resolve is weakening or you are feeling despondant with your practice. If you’re interested in how to use a yoga journal, let me know and we can explore this in a later blog.
NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE AT, ALL PRACTICE IS GOOD
Don’t let your ego kid you that because you’re not in a “perfect” posture that there’s no point trying. I put perfect in inverted commas because I believe that in yoga everybody and every Body is perfect just as we are. If I was only interested in perfection I would have abandoned yoga decades ago…and I would have missed out on so much. Thankfully, my yoga journey has always been supported by wonderful teachers, and my own curiosity. I soon realised that doing sitting forward bend every day did me good, and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t Instagram worthy. Of course I’ve made mistakes in my practice, I’m human – I’ve toppled over, pushed too far, not pushed hard enough, and gone months without seeming to make any progress, but so what?! What I believe has been important, is that no matter what, day after day, I have shown up on my mat (even if it’s just been for 10 minutes), and done something. Consistency gets results. At risk of sounding cliched, the journey is every bit as important as the destination, and trust me, it’s the journey that will keep you in the present.
I hope this has inspired you to take your yoga to the next level, perhaps you could focus on a posture that you find tricky. Do ask me if you need any advice on how to progress. I’m very fond of telling my students, that in yoga it’s the postures that we find the most challenging that have the most to teach us! Ix