Last week I realized that my personal fitness has evolved, in part because of my irritating pulmonary embolism which still isn’t gone as much as I wanted to will it behind me. (More on all that later.) Like all evolution, little things got me to this current place where yoga has replaced running as my mainstay.
I’ve loved yoga since I first did it by myself in my basement about 5 years ago. At the time I was super self-conscious about “doing it right” and thus didn’t do it very often and never in public. Then a couple of years ago I started occasionally doing yoga classes at the gym when it fit into my schedule. I loved it just as much in a class with others as I did alone in my basement so I stuck with it. Remember my friend who I dragged to yoga last summer when I discovered how much I like hydro training? (You can read about it here) Well, she loves yoga – like LOVES it – and does it faithfully at the gym. It turns out she and I have a neighbor who is a yoga instructor and agreed to teach a class in our neighborhood once a week. A class I have faithfully been attending since December even though it happens at the ungodly hour of SIX AM on Monday mornings. Me, the worlds biggest night owl awake and somewhere by six a.m.on purpose and before coffee. It’s insane! Last week, this same friend who I introduced to yoga a mere eight months ago agreed to lead the class because our instructor was going to be out of town. She said something at the beginning of that practice that has really stuck with me. “There’s just you, your breath and your mat.” I think that’s why I love yoga so much. Even though you do it in a group it is such an internal and personal thing where you can push yourself to new limits and every time you do it something different happens.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned practicing yoga with my close friends is the realization that everyone is different and everyone has their own strengths. I tend to be so judgmental toward myself in comparing where I am with where everyone else is and this class spent with the same people week after week has become a full expression of each of us as individuals. Not in a negative sense but in a very positive one. I’m short and have super flexible hamstrings so I’m really good at down dog and I adore flip dog while there are other poses that I can’t even begin to get into like crow and hero that others of us excel at. I get to secretly gloat when we are in down dog and my heels are flat on the mat and everyone else is crying out in pain. Then they get to gloat when they do what they are good at and I’m struggling. This morning we had a conversation about finding “our” poses which also keep evolving the more we practice.
Last week I was on cloud nine after I did my first major inversion. It’s called shoulder stand and basically you lie on your back with your chin tucked into your chest with your torso and your feet pointing straight in the air. The first time I couldn’t even begin to get my torso off the mat let alone perpendicular. I was dejected but did the modified version instead while vowing that I’d keep trying and “someday” I’d be able to do it. Who knew that someday would only take a couple of months when I finally did it a week ago. It was visible and measurable proof of how much my body and all the muscles have changed. My posture has improved, my walking gait, everything.
Our instructor sometimes asks the question “where do you go when it gets hard?” and I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I think the answer also evolves over time. I used to say I wanted my health and my weight to improve but wasn’t willing to do any hard work that took me out of my comfort zone. Now I have to keep reminding myself not to push too hard because I’m still healing from that whole almost dying thing. I used to get dejected and simply give up when I couldn’t do something, now I keep trying until I’m finally successful. One thing I’ve learned is that it really is important to find something you love to do to stay active. It doesn’t have to be the same thing as the next person as long as it keep you motivated to keep working hard. I may love yoga even more than running since I never considered waking up early to run but am considering adding another couple of early mornings for yoga. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up running, but right now I get more joy and less frustration with my limitations with yoga. Perhaps when all the blood clots in my lungs are completely gone things will change yet again. That’s the beauty of evolution – you never know where things will end up. Some days you just hold on for the ride…