A number of years ago I started up my sporadic yoga practice once again — and this time it was the most committed I had ever been. There was a studio literally across the street from my office and they had a 5pm class that made it really easy to go and still get home in time to make dinner. The teacher I had for that class was amazing — she was the kind of instructor who constantly reinforced the principles of listening to your body and not judging yourself. Even though there were some very advanced practitioners in my class and I was terribly inflexible, weightier than everyone else there, and out of shape, she was incredibly encouraging, made me feel confident and that I was progressing. I had her for about a year before she moved on to a new adventure in another country.
Right around the time she departed I was at the peak of symptoms which were later confirmed to be rheumatoid arthritis. At the time I hurt randomly all over, but especially in my hands, wrists and feet, and sometimes also my shoulders. I pushed on with yoga even though it was becoming more difficult. I eventually took a break, but went back after I started treatment and was feeling better. I wasn’t as into the new instructor’s style of teaching but eventually she won me over. However, she was pregnant and her teaching days were limited because of some dance injuries.
From that point on I practiced in fits and starts, for a few months here and there. The third teacher I had there was someone who had a very specific idea of what yoga is, and she practiced the same poses over and over, with a lot of focus on the sun salutations, back bends and especially chaturanga (aka plank). I started having very angry shoulders during chaturanga, and I could tell I was beginning to develop a repetitive strain complication. I tried some modifications of my own but I didn’t feel like the instructor was supportive of anything but the most perfect and the most challenging of the options, and despite my variations, the unrelenting focus on the pose became too much. I kept hoping the studio would alternate the instructor out of my perfect 5pm class window, but they didn’t. Eventually I stopped going altogether. My perfect class was no longer perfect.
At one point I took part in a yoga fundraising event in support of arthritis called the Power of Movement in which Jason Crandell was the instructor. I’m sure it was a 2 hour class which would have normally been very difficult for me, but it was so restorative, positive and encouraging I could have kept going for hours more. It reminded me all over again why yoga is for me possibly one of the most perfect forms of physical activity.
That said, it’s been hard to get back into the practice without having my perfect 5pm class across the street from work. Now that I’m 6 months pregnant (WOAH I KNOW) I’ve finally made time for myself to go to a class specifically designed for pregnant woman, and it was wonderful. Despite my pregnancy having been great so far, I’ve been feeling especially creaky and inflexible lately. I’ve also started having some discomfort across my hip flexors while sleeping.
I have many minor achy sore bits or back problems that flare every once in a while, but lately I’ve enjoyed a long stint without any flare ups, so I haven’t been seeing my chiropractor or massage therapist, and I’ve avoided a date with my yoga mat. But the other day, because of my sore hips, I broke out the mat and my foam roller and gave myself a teeny bit of love — really just a few minutes of self-myofascial release on my hips (if you don’t know what this is — you have a whole world of discovery and feeling better ahead of you… just remember that the actual rolling is not so awesome — it hurts, but it works). Just that tiny bit of rolling made my night much better.
So it’s time for some more regular body love. I’m going to try to go to Baby and Me Yoga every Sunday that I’m in town, and I’m going to try to spend a few minutes at least on my mat a couple times a week. I feel so much better today after just giving myself that hour.
It’s amazing the difference a yoga instructor can make! I was really turned off yoga after a stint with Bikram, but I’ve been slowly reintroducing myself to different styles and instructors and enjoying it so much more this time around.
Awesome stuff! A good yoga instructor can make your practice so much better, but it’s really up to us to become aware of what’s best for your body (and soul)!
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