It strikes me that I haven’t written anything about my yoga practice lately. This has been brought to my attention because I wanted to brag about my latest achievement. Yes folks, I’ve managed to achieve a headstand without the security of a wall behind me.
Now, this may seem very little to you, but it’s taken me bloomin’ months of effort. I’d have a practice most days. At first I’d heave my feet upwards and they’d bash against the wall, my shoulders would sink under the weight, and generally I’d topple sideways in an ungainly sack of potatoes way. Slowly things improved until my toes would just touch lightly on the wall, I’d hold myself straight and drift my legs featherlike to the floor. I’ve been at that stage for months. But yesterday…yay… I took a deep breath, held on to my tummy muscles for grim death, and pulled my legs over my head. It wasn’t easy peasy getting there, but the sense of achievement was stupidly immense.
A couple of weeks ago my yoga teacher gave a lesson in which she asked us to look at ‘letting go of the ego’. Amongst other things, she asked us to question why we were pushing ourselves to achieve poses and positions that we found difficult. Did we push ourselves harder than we should to impress?
I’ve mulled over this question quite a lot recently, and I’m not sure I know the definitive answer for me. In truth, there are many reasons why I practice yoga regularly. Here’s my top twelve (in no particular order):
- To gain muscle tone
- To improve balance
- To improve flexibility
- Escape – there’s no room for other thoughts when you are trying to hold every bit of your body in the correct position whilst concentrating on your breath too.
- Getting to know my body – what are ‘normal’ aches and pains, where the tight bits are, which bits need a bit more work
- Mindfulness – being aware
- Age is no barrier (or size for that matter) – yoga is progressive whatever stage you are at in both your practice and in life
- Power – All that balancing, bending, stretching and breathing leaves me feeling like I could do anything. I am woman. I am powerful woman! (in contrast the gym leaves me feeling like I could keel over at any moment).
- Strength – Unlike many women in their 60’s I know I can hold my own weight on my hands without too much trouble. This is probably not something many women want to do, but hey, it makes me feel good to know it! My core is getting stronger too – I’ve moved on from just being able to hold plank pose for a second or two, to hanging on in there for over a minute!
- Relaxation – Many people would think they don’t need to ‘learn’ how to relax, but having learnt a few techniques I am quite capable of relaxing my body and brain enough to drift into sleep whenever I want, or need to. Hell, if I work through my relaxation drill I can even manage to nod off in the discomfort of a plane seat!
- Exercise – contrary to common belief, yoga is dynamic. Every muscle should be engaged, and it’s not unusual to get hot and a bit puffy after maintaining a pose for a couple of minutes. It is indeed proper exercise!
- Posture – sad to say I’ve always had dodgy posture, but since regular yoga practice I am constantly reminded to stand tall, shoulders back and down, tummy engaged….. I recognise when I’m slumped and slouchy and it’s become (becoming) instinctive to straighten up.
Add to that the friends I’ve made in class you will see that there are plenty of positives. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ll think of even more as soon as I press ‘post’. I can’t think of any negatives at all.
I’m aware that not everyone wants to push so hard in their practice, but basically I push myself because I like to and it feels like it’s good for me. I can see the progress. It’s only a little bit about boasting…honestly! 🙂