Last night's class was awesome. Just four of us in the class which made it comfortable to ask for help or ask for a harder option or whatever. Ashtanga and in a hot room for an hour and a half. I was glowing a lot very quickly. I love it. L, the instructor, always does the pose and then takes me through the three options of difficulty. I am very flexible and she totally gets it - comes to check I am not over-stretching but also gets that most poses just don't *feel* like anything for me. Except for anything to do with knees - OMG. So it's a yoga class totally tailored for each of us in the room. We had a good vibe going on last night and all made lots of progress. It was great.
What I love about yoga is two-fold. Firstly, I am learning as I settle into my 30s to realise and accept who I am, what I like and what works for me. And I am *very* slowly learning to reject or refuse what I don't like and what doesn't work for me. And this is becoming a really rewarding attitude. So I am coming to acceptance that certain exercising is just not for me. I don't like rushing off at lunchtime to a pilates class of 30 people. I don't really like the style of a gym workout. I really, really like yoga as a form of exercise. But I also like it as a form of meditation. I've done a tonne of reading this year and also talking from time to time with my counsellor about "stillness of mind" and all that stuff to do with mind exercises for dealing with stress. That too is not really working for me. I forget to do it or I don't find active meditation as useful for me - ok, fine, I like to multitask. Guilty! So what I love about ashtanga is it's so physically involving that you spend the 1.5hrs concentrating on getting into and holding poses, on breathing and on how your body feels for all those many seconds. And your brain is forced to clock out. So I am essentially doing a 1.5hr workout and a 1.5hr meditation/brain shut down. No wonder I feel so relaxed and energised and invigorated at the end! I love love love it!!
The other thing I love about yoga is what I am learning about living and life and attitude from it. So, I am a highly competitive person (you may have noticed). But the way my instructor teaches yoga is that there is no fail - there's no right or wrong level, there's no right or wrong answer to how you feel in a pose. More often than not I hear her telling me or someone else ... that's ok, just go with it. The way she is teaching the class is to find out where your body is at in the position and accept it. This is what you can do. Know where you want to go, know what the advanced positions are and hope and work towards them but be accepting of where you currently are at. And so ... I hope to one day be able to sit in lotus and to do a headstand but right now, I am happy just to master sitting cross-legged and to be doing a shoulderstand. And I really think that is helping me be more zen in my everyday.
Last night we were practicing the shoulderstand and its not a position I can hold for very long. I came out of it, I guess, quite quickly and L wanted to know why and how it felt etc. I told her that it hurts my back (hurts my back muscles, which need strengthening by, um, holding the pose for longer) and she was telling me how to work on this over time - count the breaths and each week work towards holding the pose for several more breaths and work up to holding for 25 breaths. And then she told me that the yogis hold these kind of positions for "up to an hour to get the full benefit". "What full benefits!?" I scoff and she replied, "right, I'll show you" and pulled out a book, flipped to the page and made me read a page and a half of the supposed benefits of standing upside down.
Now, when modern medical science fails you, you are forced to change the way you think about the world - medicine doesn't fix everything, obviously, since it can't fix you. I've had Crohn's Disease now for just over 10 years. Wow. And in that time, I've turned to a lot of alternative practices because ... well because the drugs don't work for me, in fact, they poisoned me and left me with an allergy to sulfur. It took a couple of years to try all the meds and to realise that this wasn't the way to go for me. I've been in "remission" (that's a medical term, mine would be "management") for probably about 7 years now. Maybe a bit less. I have the odd flare up, which Drs would say since they last maybe 2 weeks, aren't really Crohn's. Doctors don't know what a disease feels like from the inside. In any case, those who know me well know that I manage my disease through diet, exercise, and when I am doing exceptionally well, reduction in stress. And that depression is a common symptom of Crohn's as the body is not absorbing Vit B and zinc and lack of these can cause depression. Plus you feel like crap all the time. That's not joyful.
What I am saying is that for me, the last 5 years have been a time of understanding that this vessel I call Me is one that requires a wholistic operating approach. If I let one thing out of balance, the whole thing kinda wobbles off its axis and falls over. Getting into balance (body. mind and soul) isn't easy and ebbs and flows and falling off kilter isn't always readily noticeable. Sometimes it's taken a couple of days and sometimes a couple of years to bring back equilibrium. I guess it's ongoing mission.
And I'm learning that I can't just ignore any aspect of self and think I can maintain equilibrium - diet, exercise, sleep, emotion - friends, family, intellectual stimulation, work, and creative and spiritual self and so on, all need care and attention.
I don't always do this well and I noticed earlier in the week I was low on energy and motivation. I'm always interested in seeing myself switch from one state to the other - active to inactive, I spose. Both states are self-inforcing so that, if I am down, I tend to stay there and want to and don't want to put in any energy at all. And if I am up, I want to stay there and don't want to take down time lest I fall into a down phase.
Things I have noticed that work to kick me out of my rut:
- doing the dishes and tidying up the space around me - having chores to do, a full sink of dirty dishes and minor items to sort all add to the white noise of clutter in my head and the life-sucking promise of that these chores will still be here needing to be done later. Clear, tidy space clears my head and inspires me. A tidy kitchen lifts my spirit. Darn you Flylady.
- seeing friends - getting out of the house and laughing or having a deep and meaningful with a friend reminds me that I am not alone, I have a great life, and that I am loved. Being with people who get me cheers me up like nothing else. Being with people who get me reminds me that that is the fucking point of life. The whole point is this moment, now. Nothing else really matters and what I choose to do in it, is my choice alone. And I choose to revel in it.
- exercise - ugh this one is the worst, there is nothing like feeling so sluggish that all you want to do is potato in front of the TV. The sheer idea of changing out of warm clothes into running gear and hauling my fat arse around till I sweat is the last thing I feel like doing when I am down in the rut. The amount of energy required to turn that around and actually do it is huge but it gets easier the more often I face this wall because I feel better after I do it, I feel less sluggish and remember yet again that time/productivity is not linear
But I'm going to add the shoulderstand to my daily regimine cause it turns out it is supposed to be very good for digestive diseases. Who'da thunk that? I dunno but I'm willing to give it a go, I guess.
So there is yoga now in my life for exercise, for meditation, for stress management and for maybe my disease (which is its own thing and exercerbated by stress).
So I think I am saying that I am loving yoga.