My Yoga Practice
It is amazing how much my yoga practice has changed since I started going to class as often as I could. Six months ago my practice was very different from what it is now and I wanted to break that down. Before it was about pushing my limits and getting into those poses everyone loves. I pushed and pushed and pushed until finally I landed on my toe.
I've had a few minor injuries due to yoga over the last few years. Started with a concussion (you should read that post... it's all because of a sneeze) and has lead with a neck injury due to attempting a fish pose for the first time (second picture above). My neck hasn't felt the same since, but it took landing on my toe wrong to actually stop and think.
I think pushing your physical boundaries is a good thing. You should be striving to do better each time you go, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing poses that scare or challenge you is a good thing. But there's more to it than just getting the pose for the picture. I took a yin class a few days later, that was taught by my favorite teacher, Sabrina. That day her focus was on listening to your body, paying attention to what it says and understanding that support is okay. The next class I took was a slow flow, where Brenda walked the class through each aspect of basic poses I'd been doing for years. From placement of the toes to heel, to the alignment of your legs and torso, to where your shoulders and neck are. As she was talking I came to realize how the smooth flow I'd been doing for years was so wrong. Every pose I was use to doing became five times harder with just a few adjustments. I am sure that both teachers have said these things in classes I've taken before, the difference this time was that I was actually listening.
I didn't just listen to those two classes. In every class that's followed I've slowed down and started to pay attention to all the words coming from the teacher and then placing my body better. I realized that my feet going numb in pigeon was because I was pinching a nerve in my hip. After spending a month doing pigeon on my back, I went back regular pigeon but with a focus on aligning my hips so that I didn't go numb. Alignment is huge in yoga. A small adjustment can make or break the poses. Suddenly I can no longer reach the ground when doing a side angle. But my hips are level and the stretch is so much better. I began taking core classes because I realized that I was using my back instead of my core and that was causing issues. My core is so weak but it gets stronger. I swear Katie says "tuck your tummy" half the time just for me, she also introduced us to blocks below shoulders when going into chaturangas. This ensures you aren't going lower than you should and forces you to touch the blocks, I wasn't going low enough in my push ups.
My practice has strengthened a lot since that toe sprain. Instagram shows you many awesome yogis doing fancy poses and it's very intoxicating. You want to be right there with them. Slowing down and listening to your body is a heck of a lot better. And sure you might not be jumping into the "fun" poses for years, but you will be building up the foundations to do those poses and you can still do fun things, like #fairyyogafriday.