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Posts Tagged ‘integration’

This is the continuation of a story about my experience with 30 Days of Yoga. The story starts here.

I have promised you a C.S. Lewis quote, and I have not forgotten. I’ll give it to you in the next post, I promise! I have just a little more to say about the process of my 30-Day Yoga journey before arriving at the grand conclusion.

There is no better way to end a honeymoon than with injury. (Well, vomiting works too—did that on my original honeymoon.)  So, doing yoga nearly every day for the first two weeks of the month (and enjoying it immensely), I managed to strain the tendons at the ends of my hamstrings. 

The good thing was that because I really was trying to move gently and feel for my limits, I did not seriously injure myself, and I was aware that I needed to back off in order to prevent worse pain. 

However, this setback was a source of great disappointment for me. I was so excited about what I was getting out of the yoga practice, and I was finally starting to feel that I was going to really be able to make a healthy and sustainable lifestyle change. I was determined to find a way to work with my body’s abilities, and more than once thought about my amazing dad, who taught himself to play tennis left-handed when faced with tennis elbow that threatened to take him out of the game.  However, I felt like nothing I tried, being as gentle as I could be, seemed to allow me to recover. I would try to strengthen my hamstring; my hip would hurt. I would try to help my hip; my lower back would hurt. I would try to rest; everything would still hurt.

I found myself really grieving about my limitations. Partly, I still view myself as an athlete, even though that is not true of me any more. It is a loss to recognize that physical ability is not currently a part of my identity. Secondly, I had truly believed that I was making reasonable requests of my body, and it was profoundly disappointing to find that my body couldn’t handle those requests.

I say all this with an awareness that facing limitations in exercise ability pales in comparison to the grief of the body disappointing us in much bigger ways. I cannot begin to touch the magnitude of cancer, aging, surgery, and debilitating disease.

Facing the realities of my relatively normal, 35-year-old body, my usual mode is to dismiss the physical disappointment in favor of focussing on inner realities. However, I am coming to believe that dichotomizing my life in this way weakens me.

Embracing my body’s limitations, with the disillusionment, frustration, and sadness that entails, is the more immediately painful route. But I am learning to experiment with moving in that direction out of a hope and belief that courageous honesty with myself will be more fruitful in the long run than focussing on one side of my being at the expense of the other. 

With this goal in mind, of meeting my body where it is and embracing even the parts of that reality that are painful for me, I feel more encouraged to keep feeling my way forward in pursuit of greater health and balance.

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Yoga Honeymoon

I love honeymoons. If everything important in life could be accomplished in two-week-long spurts, I would be all set. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell totally devastated me when he asserted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in anything.  I’ve been teaching my kids math, so I was quickly able to figure out that I couldn’t fit 10,000 hours of anything into a two-week honeymoon period.

The good news is that I went into my 30 Days of Yoga project fully expecting to lose interest after two weeks, or at least to hit a slump. I did not want that to happen, and joining a community practicing together was part of my plan to keep going after the initial excitement was over.  

But this is not a post-honeymoon post. First, I want to tell you a little bit about those first lovely weeks.

I practiced nearly every day. This is unusual for me, but I had a sense that letting myself skip days was part of why I had lost momentum in exercising in the past.  My first days were wobbly and awkward, and I could not stay in poses as long as the directions said, and yes, I fell over a couple of times trying to balance. But that was ok, because it is central to yoga to work with where your body is, to listen to how much your body can do, and to adjust your practice accordingly. And I did start improving.

What I enjoyed the most was the unexpected flashes of intuition that would come up during or after my practice, or even when I was out walking at other times. (Getting going with yoga made me want to start walking regularly too.) I think this happens because I focus so much on how my body is feeling in a pose, and on trying to breathe deeply and slowly rather than hold my breath, that it calms down the usual logorrhea going on in my brain and makes some space for intuitive insights. (I learned the word logorrhea from a game of Balderdash.) 

I also found that some of the poses became meaningful to me. Warrior II pose is a lunge pose in which the arms are extended in opposing directions. I found myself reflecting on my intention of integration during that pose–that parts of me that seem to go in opposite directions do not have to be in conflict; rather they can contribute to balance.

I even had a moment of spiritual encouragement about allowing God to meet me “outside of the box.” That really deserves its own essay, but I include it here because it was part of the process of enjoying all of the beauty that I was experiencing in my yoga practice.

As you may have guessed, the dazzling lights did start to fade, and all the reasons why I have not established a regular exercise routine in the past started to regain their voices. I guess they had gone into stunned silence while I’d been basking in the glow of my new virtuous lifestyle. That was bound not to last.

However, I found my way of approaching all those clamoring reasons had shifted this time. More on that in the next post.  And thanks, everybody, for the comments. I love it!

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Has your body ever told you a story about yourself? Mine has, but I am not often paying attention.

Sometimes my body tells me stories I don’t like. For example, I had really l-o-n-g labors when giving birth to my two kids. I did not enjoy that. But my experience with childbirth gave me a tangible example of  the slow and gradual manner with which I approach change and transition in my life. I did not notice this about myself for a long time. When I did begin to notice it, I often felt frustrated and judgmental that I am like that. However, seeing my internal characteristics reflected physically, through childbirth, helped me to accept this part of my personality and learn to work with myself more graciously and effectively.   

This month my body has had a story for me also. Even though I want to lose weight and to get back in shape, I have been unsuccessful at establishing an enduring exercise routine.  Yoga is one of the few forms of exercise that I truly enjoy these days. Even though I do enjoy it, and I feel great both during and after practicing, I consistently lose my motivation and momentum and stop after only a few weeks at a time. I come back to it again and again, but never enough at a time to really establish a habit or effect a change in my body.

Reflecting on my physical status, I decided that I was really ready to pursue changing my lifestyle. I decided to start by participating in Marianne Elliott’s 30 Days of Yoga. Marianne is an amazing person and one of my “ordinary heroes,” so you can expect to hear more about her in the future, but for now, I’ll just introduce her as the creator of a month-long virtual yoga program. You can read more about it here.

My intention for this thirty days had to do with integration. My body is in the shape that it is in partly because I am more willing to care for the inside of me than the outside. However, it turns out that my body is attached to me and that it doesn’t work so well to let it fend for itself. So I wanted to use this yoga practice to integrate nourishing my soul with caring for my body. I felt that approaching practice as self-care rather than as corporal punishment would help me move toward that intention.

My interaction with my body has taken me on quite the wild ride this month. I actually sat staring dumbfounded at the computer last night as a quote from C.S. Lewis caused one of the integral pieces of the picture to fall into place for me. I will be posting about this journey in a little series here over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

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