More Confessions From a Yoga Teacher......
When I was in Italy I took a yoga class in Florence with Guido (that is him above) which was pretty difficult. I didn't realize it was going to be a rigorous Ashtanga style class and that I would be, by far, the oldest person in attendance. I wanted to write a post about that class for two reasons; while Guido led a very strenuous class, he didn't push, or demand, or judge. I found him to have a deep caring energy and assumed that he has a very strong personal meditation practice and a deep dedication to all the limbs of yoga. He pushed, but was not a bully, which is a rare combination. I was also excited to find that even though I hadn't done most of those poses in a long time, my body could still do them! I appreciated the muscle memory and the level of fitness that a “yoga body” can retain, even after many years (especially since it was my body!)
I never wrote that post. I think it's because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it did in July. Traveling to Italy, then the beach, and then being in retreat where I sat for 10 days straight while hosting multiple house guests for over 2 weeks really took its toll on my asana practice. Really, it took a toll on all physical practices, from tending the garden to walking to the grocery store . I have been able to sit in meditation for much longer, which is good, but that doesn’t really help to maintain the physcial body. So while my experience with Guido showed me that my body is resilient, my subsequent experience with lethargy showed me that strength gained is so very impermanent. As the end of July crept on, I found my knees hurting, my feet were so tight in the morning it took time for me to be able to walk to the bathroom, I was not able to fit into certain clothes, my shoulders were tight… on and on. (Sound familiar?)
You would think spending all day telling people to exercise, move their bodies, and tremor would remind me that I needed to do the same to maintain a level of well-being. It's not that I didn't want to follow my own advice. It's just that things got in the way, and I experienced the fallout from my neglect. Of course, this is not the first time I have “fallen off of the wagon.” But it is the first time I've done it at the age of 52, when most bodies start lose resiliency.
Personally, I don't think it's so bad to fall off the wagon every now and then. After all, when you do so, it is a good time to experience what your practice has been giving you all along. It can be hard for us to trust in a practice that is consistent and know that it's doing anything for us. Because we are consistent with the practice, it is consistently working, and we can imagine our well-being is simply a natural outcome of breathing. But think again!
Everybody is eventually lured out of routine by the allure of recklessness (and pasta, gelato and chianti!). I think very few of us escape the pull. And when we experience the fallout, we can either continue down the slippery slope of decay or jump back on the wagon. If we jump back on, and things switch back, we know for sure it is our dedication to our practice that is keeping us happy, not just good genes or happy coincidence.
As things happen, just as I was conjuring up this post, I saw this article in the NY Times which talks about what happens when you take a vacation from your exercise. Take a look if you are interested in the study.
(New York Times article: "Take a Vacation From Exercise? Your Body May Not Thank You")
So now you know, I'm not just shaking my finger at you when I'm encouraging you to come to more classes or to stick with your practice. I am shaking that finger at myself too. I will be spending August crawling back on the wagon and invite you along for the journey.