A.k.a. stepping away from your mat. Apt, we can probably agree, for my first post in what a very long time.
I missed this. And I missed my yoga practice. But there we go – sometimes we choose to do the things we know aren’t great for us. Six months ago, I was toting my mat around Ashtanga-ing my little heart out… then suddenly even the idea of inhaling whilst raising my arms made my head feel heavy and had me rolling out excuses rather than my mat. I was tired… I’d just eaten… I really needed 20 minutes more sleep…
My reluctance confused me. I’m not exactly famed for hesitancy. But there I was, frozen and stuck and kinda willingly gummed up. I tried to trick myself into a quick stretch by creating a beautiful, light yoga room. And whilst I only had to step in there to feel the good vibes soothe my soul, I couldn’t convince myself to really go in there, breathe and bend.
Fortunately, I cushioned my fall from grace with some great stories. When shallow excuses like being tired reach the end of their fairly limited lifespan, you have to shovel around for more of an X-factor grade yarn. And you know, I hadn’t just fallen off the bandwagon… I’d been pushed. Ouch! I wasn’t quite sure who’d shoved me hardest, but there were a few culprits in the line-up…
- the Korean anatomy teacher who told my ‘very large thighs’ were limiting my yogic ability – Ouch!
- my much-respected, guru-grade teacher who, on a 4-week long intensive, kept gathering my Chinese Ashtanga classmates around my mat to explore how owning a ‘stiff Western body’ affect asana practice. And my tetchy inner thighs got baddha konasana as homework when other people got HANDSTAND PRESS! Why was I even bothering? (Seriously, if you ever have a kamikaze-style urge to tango with your ego, go intensively Ashtanga in China).
- I suffered a massive whack of gross Bikram-esque unprofessionalism at the hands of my long-term teacher.
You get the idea. 1 and 2 were not my real problems. I like my (normally proportioned!) thighs! I like my practice. But given the choice between working through some sh*t or shutting down, I settled for staying unable to separate being wounded by some wicked bad stuff that had happened at yoga and yoga itself hurting me.
Which was a shame.
It wasn’t that I was falling out of love with yoga. I don’t think any of us on a hiatus from our practice do. Even if I didn’t seek it out, there wasn’t a day that went by that practice didn’t catch my eye with the spine of a book, an Instagram pic or the yum of a post-sofa stretch. Silent Sat-nams would sneak themselves beneath the inexorable rhythm of my breath. My fingers surreptitiously drummed out a Sa-Ta-Na-Ma as I walked.
And yoga holidays (not that sort) do have their hidden benefits. Yep, we might feel physically cruddy and emotionally numb, but the yoga’s gonna sneak in somewhere, whether it’s consciously breathing yourself to sleep or consciously questioning the actions in our day. This is good! Not just because yoga wants us and is always glad to welcome us home; it’s good to glimpse new facets of this vast physical and philosophical system. Stepping away from our pre-determined practice and seeing what seeps back into us cracks us open in all sorts of good ways.
Eventually, thoroughly bored with my own BS, I realized that the further I get away from my practice, the further I get from myself. Yoga lights things up for us and if we don’t like what we see, switching that light off might make things seem less ugly for a while. Especially if you throw in a few glasses of wine and a Netflix binge. Sooner or later though, that lack-of-intuition-and-mindfulness dark is only going to hurt your eyes and have you bumping into crap.
How dark it gets depends, but – be it a broken-on-the-bathroom-floor crisis or the daily grind wearing us a little too thin – the time will come to step back up to the mat. And when the time is right, we don’t even have to trick ourselves into it. Going to class is the obvious solution; one of yoga’s biggest blessings is the communities it provides us with. But if you’re too far away, too busy or too broken, there’s definitely no shame in YogaGlo. Or GaiamTV.com (if the whole YogaGlo class-copyrighting saga was a little too corporate for your tastes). Honestly, 30 miles from my nearest studio, these sites are my shepherds. I’m even attempting an Instagram challenge. And I used to think bad things about those. (You can see my efforts up at the top of this post, or for more IG-love, see the sidebar).
Now it’s just a case of taking it day by day, breath by breath.
With much love, as always, S x
P.S. Feel free to comment or share below – any thoughts on building yoga communities in remote places would be especially appreciated 🙂