Practicing yoga is not linear. As we grow, our bodies change, with age and with what life presents. During the honeymoon phase of my relationship with yoga I thought I would only advance physically. Luckily we continue to advance spiritually beyond our bodys’ capabilities.
I started practicing yoga as a teenager. My mom is a longtime yogini and after I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis she would sit me down in front of Rodney Yee’s VHS videos. I resisted but she was right. Soon, I could touch my toes for the first time ever and felt that sense of well-being and peace that yoga brings.
For a long time, maybe like 10+ years after grabbing my toes with my fingers for the first time, I thought, ‘I’m only going to get “better” at this.’ More flexible, stronger, deeper, as I achieved more advanced poses. In those days I was indeed still healing and doing my body a world of good but I was somewhat pose oriented and had the mindset of achievement.
My JRA is gone and I’m sure I’ve bypassed many other maladies I’m not even aware of because of yoga, but at some point I realized that my leg didn’t really need to go even further behind my head… is that even beneficial? Maybe it was the yoga, but I realized being an advanced yogi is more about experience and finally sitting down to meditate.
And then life happens too. In my early twenties I had the luxury of time and energy to burn. I wanted to feel like I was getting a workout from yoga. Only after getting pregnant at 31 did I realize that I had been preparing and training for the marathon of motherhood for years. Strengthening my core, arms, and thighs to carry a child both in and out of my body. Being flexible to flow with mood changes and challenging phases.
My body is forever changed from having a baby especially having had an emergency C-section. But I healed faster than I expected because of yoga. I’m in a place where I’m stronger than ever but at the price of reduced opening in my back and shoulders. Two years after giving birth can I still do Kapotasana, an extremely deep backbend? The answer is no! It’s just where I am and that’s okay. Instead, I appreciate this new found strength and stability because that’s what I need right now as the mother of a toddler. Maybe I’ll be able to focus on deeply opening my body again later life, maybe not. The point is that the practice will always be there for me to push up against and grow from where I’m at in life with my changing body and needs.
The body is a tool, like a metaphor for the challenges of life, that we get to play with and explore for deeper experience. If everything in yoga came easily and effortlessly all the time then there wouldn’t be much to learn. In reality we all have challenging areas in our bodies or poses that are uniquely difficult and that’s where the real gold of self discovery lies.
Back in the honeymoon phase it never occurred to me that once I achieved a pose it could allude me again in the future, but I have learned that we grow with our yoga and what life presents. It’s not a one way street. Being an advanced yogi is not about being a human pretzel, but rather experience and finding peace with the present.