Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu
The beauty of a yoga practice is that it helps us learn acceptance. Initially, I found that my practice was helping me learn to accept my body as it was that day in that particular moment. Every time I would go to class, my teachers would remind me, remind us all, that a piece of doing a posture was simply about focusing on where our bodies were right then. Not where they were the day before. Not where we wanted them to be. Right then.
It was a hard lesson to accept. When I first began my practice three years ago, I was happy to just show up and do anything. I was excited about the possibilities for each posture. I looked forward to seeing what the next class would bring.
But the more time I spent in the studio the less accepting I became of my body and what it could do. I wanted my tight hamstrings and hips to open up so that I could go deeper in certain postures. I found myself frustrated with the time it was taking and the lack of progress I perceived myself to be making.
I had developed a goal-oriented practice.
My practice had moved away from self-acceptance and enjoyment and into one where I thought the only way to be happy was to obtain full expression of a posture. No, not every posture. I just had certain ones I loved and thought were beautiful that I wanted to achieve. The rest of them, well, they didn’t really concern me. If a posture wasn’t on my list of favorites, then it was something I simply had to do in order to get to one of those that was. I was just passing time.
Refocusing My Practice
As the quote from Lao Tzu says, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes,” and sure enough, I experienced one that helped me refocus my practice.
About six weeks ago, I was doing some back-bending at home. I shouldn’t have been doing it. It was cold outside, I was cold, and I was not properly warmed up. But my back felt tight from sitting all day, and I just wanted to stretch it out. The result? A pulled muscle in my lower back.
That pulled muscle impacted nearly every single posture. Anything I could have done in a posture previously became non-existent. Yes, I could go to class, but I had to move slowly and evaluate what was going on with my body. Most postures I could barely get into at all, and there were several I flat out couldn’t do for weeks because of the pain it caused in my back.
I didn’t want to give up my practice, and it was recommended to me that continuing, and doing anything I could, was better than doing nothing at all. Some movement is better than no movement.
The first week was the worst. I cried several times because of the pain and the physical limitations it put on me, but then, somehow, I managed to fall into acceptance. I started to find the joy in going to class and doing what I could without expectations. I became excited again about what the next day would bring. Some days I could do more, and others I could do less, but I learned not to get upset by this.
I started to appreciate each posture for its own beauty and what it brought me each day. Since I couldn’t do my favorite postures to the extent I was used to, I had stopped focusing on when they would show up in class. I was simply being.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by new Daily Cup of Yoga contributor, Leigh A. Hall. Leigh has been practicing Bikram Yoga for over three years. She blogs regularly about her practice at www.mybikramyogalife.com. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.