2018 is about to be over y’all, but one of the best things I could possibly do for myself (besides moving to a great new place!) is practice yoga semi-regularly.
I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve dubbed Monday, “Yoga Monday” where I force myself to go to a local studio, down the street, after work. And when I can’t make “Yoga Monday,” I find myself hitting the mat at home, with my own favorite mix of music, while I’m practicing.
For Christmas, I was delighted to get yoga socks and a block from one of my friends, and I am already eying a new mat, and looking for how to make my own mat spray on Pinterest. I got hit and I got hit with the yoga bug hard, even though I don’t do it everyday.
The most wonderful revelation I got from practicing yoga is, yoga isn’t at all what it seems, in terms of the stereotypes of super, zen people able to block out the worries of the world, while bending themselves into human pretzels, wearing expensive-ass yoga clothes.
In our culture, we like to look for quick fads and fixes. We like to buy a lot of stuff to look the part– I’m guilty: look at all of the stuff I just bought for yoga, and the stuff I want to buy for yoga, as well as paying fees to practice at the studio. That doesn’t even include the cute athlesure clothes. I still love the cute clothes. (Why am I obsessed with leggings now?)
But aside from the cute clothes and cool mats, and towels and essential oils, I like the ways yoga surprises me from time-to-time, when I do something I couldn’t before. And it happens randomly and often quietly during a practice.
Back to my revelation.
Originally, like most people, I thought yoga was about twisting yourself into complicated poses that seem impossible to do. And like most people, when you get the courage to step into a studio, you want to do the complicated stuff first.
For some reason, even if you just got off of your couch, and you have potato chip crumbs in your sports bra, you want to walk into the yoga studio and do a headstand. That is the same attitude as wanting to break a wood board on your first day of Karate. It’s absurd, we know this, but those are the goals we put in our heads when we start these kinds of things. Cuz, delusion.
Or, you find yourself wanting to be competitive. You look at others around you, you judge them based on how fit they appear to be and you attempt to outdo them. Or, you may find yourself pleased at being able to do something others are having difficulty with. By the time the class is over, you are sweating profusely and you couldn’t even enjoy the Savasana (resting pose) at the end. Real talk, I come to class for Savasana. I want to do an entire class of Savasana.
The thing I am loving most about yoga once you start to shed all of those thoughts and insecurities about 5 classes in, you get hit over the head and realize, yoga is ALL about adjustment and support for who you are and where you are.
Great instructors tend to remind you several times, that this is your practice. They are planting those seeds for a reason, to get it through your thick skull that this is really about you!
Which brings me to the thought that inspired this blog post in the first place.
Bolsters, blocks and straps.
Initially, I was pretty resistant to using bolsters, blocks and straps in yoga classes, because, being a competitive person, who played sports more years ago than I want to admit, I wanted to show everyone in class how athletic I used to be.
But the more I attended yoga class, I realized using bolsters, blocks and straps were essential tools that even the instructors and most seasoned folks in my class were using on a regular basis. They’d swap em in and out based on what felt right for them for that pose, on that particular day.
Not only did I realize, they helped me do certain poses more comfortably, but with time, I realized these tools were helping me stretch deeper, and my body was naturally doing poses better when I did want to push myself and try without them.
Days where I was just having a tough time, using these tools came in handy, because if I was mentally tired, my body knew what to do. I could trust myself to just focus on what my body was supposed to be doing with out worrying about completely losing balance, or forcing my body to do something that didn’t feel good out of pride. I wasn’t spending time overexerting myself on a day that I was mentally or physically fatigued, just to be cute. I was still making my practice about me, listening to my body and giving myself a break. Your best for the moment, is your best and it is good enough. Try again later, push a little more next time.
Once, I had a really difficult day and I felt drained. I dragged myself to “Yoga Monday” and I wasn’t feeling as awesome as I normally do as I move through the class. I remembered an instructor saying if at any point, you want to just get into child’s pose, do it. Then, come back in with the rest of the class, or, do child’s pose the whole class.
So, that night, I found myself going into child’s pose several times. I got over myself, I got over what others would think, and I got over the fact that I wasn’t the pet student hitting every pose right with the instructor. That was never the point.
I started getting that my yoga practice is always for me and whatever I need, the class is just a vehicle for me to get it. Stopping and breathing deeply was what I needed more of that night. Cool. Surrendering to that, I had a much better experience.
I love that getting help, slowing down, modifying and adjusting are normalized in really great yoga classes. I love that you can hug a bolster and rest your body while teaching yourself to stretch and breathe. I’m looking for a bolster for home practice.
I was anti-block when I started, and now I love them and use them at home. I notice all of the things I can do with the help of the blocks, and I realize I am still balancing, I am still challenging myself, and with more time and practice, I will be able to do more difficult things.
I have found so much joy in watching my body do things I originally couldn’t do on a random night after going through the same poses day after day. It’s a practice. Duh, the more you do something, the better you get at it.
I’ve noticed how using straps trains my body into doing things like binds. Straps do more than assist with binds, fyi. But that really helps me in that area. I still have difficulty looping one arm under and behind a stretched leg and having it touch my other hand, stretching behind me across my back to meet it. (It’s so difficult describing this). But, I’ve found with using a strap for other exercises, my body is doing the calculations. Those hands are getting closer and closer, almost touching.
So, in 2019, I want to work smarter and not harder.
I want to identify all of the bolsters, blocks, and straps in my life and use the hell out of them so I can grow and get better. We never have to do anything the hard way. We are often moving to fast to recognize what tools are available to help us, or we are too arrogant to use them because we want to appear strong or appear like we know what we’re doing.
Sometimes the hard way is the only way and there isn’t a tool in sight, and we have to learn a lesson from it. And that’s ok too. I am learning in yoga that discomfort is ok, pain is not.
Pain means stop.
Discomfort, we can move through. We can learn how to breathe our way through the discomfort and let it pass.
I want to metaphorically and literally take a child’s pose and pause, and reset myself when I need to, and not be bothered if it doesn’t make sense to others.
So, I’m going to work harder in 2019 to not be stubborn, arrogant, or proud. I’m going to identify the tools and I’m going to use them. I don’t get a prize or something extra for ignoring tools that will get me the same results, and can get me there safer, exerting less energy.
Use the tools, folks. Use the tools.