It’s been a weird week, a weird month. I’ve had the longest Ashtanga break ever, maybe I needed it. From having been a yoga junkie, practising 6 days a week, waking up at 5 every morning, praying by the mat, I’ve had to pull out. I don’t know if our practice is a reflection of who we are or what we are experiencing in life.
Why the break?
I felt I needed it. I stopped enjoying the practice and being present. I would go to Mysore, practice on auto mode, my mind being somewhere else, not feeling happy. The once so powerful tool had lost its effect on me and maybe I just needed a break and a tap on the shoulder. And it’s ok. I think that yoga is something that follows you for life. We go through stages, moods, changes in life and adapt our practice accordingly. Maybe it becomes less about the physical but more about the mental state.
For a perfectionist type A personality, Ashtanga yoga can be very rewarding but also fatal in a way. Bit by bit, sweat by sweat, it’s easy to climb that ladder. I’ve met many ambitious yogis who have hurt themselves in the process, pushed too hard when the mind and body weren’t ready, too early, too quickly and then having to take 6 months out of practice because of injury.
I felt that it didn’t give me what it used to do and I was searching for something else that the practice couldn’t give me. I also think that in the half a year I practised in Helsinki, I didn’t really feel I made any progress, either mentally or physically. And to be honest, having spent the first Scandinavian winter since 15 years, it’s freaking hard to wake up at 5 am when the sun goes up at 9 am in October…
Maybe I’m learning to not be so hard on myself. I somehow felt that no, I don’t need to do this anymore. I need to be kind to myself. I normally consider myself as a morning person and of course, I loved that feeling of starting a new day on the mat. But enough was enough. So I actually ended up doing very little physical activity during the whole winter.
In my case, I was searching for a smaller yoga studio, more of a community vibe which I missed with my tribe. Of course, I knew the teachers (who are brilliant) and recognised the early birds but somehow Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is quite of a lone wolf kind of game. People aren’t really chatty at 6 am and we all power through our own practice before facing our work days. Maybe there was a part of me who needed that particular community vibe then? Mostly older (power ass and strong) women I have a lot of respect for, but somehow I felt 10-15 years behind in my own journey. Out of phase.
I’ve changed strategy and done things I have done before. Me, who has never ever put my foot in a gym before, always being intimidated by “gym culture”. I’ve signed up for a gym, with a personal trainer whom I meet every week. Very unexpected. I decided I’ll go on a variety journey, trying all kinds of different training, try at least and make me miss yoga again.
So far I’ve tried Body Pump, Body Combat, Body (yes there is a class named body), Spinning, Zumba, and Body Balance. Very different from where I come from. I can’t say I liked them all but it was somehow a good experience. Using my brain and muscles in a very different way than in Yoga.
Zumba has been the surprise, I’ve always thought it was quite cheesy with commercial latin tunes. Well, this teacher is brilliant. Gay stereotyped Spanish a bit too tanned guy who brings it on like Beyonce. It’s a very high energy class and he makes all women (and men) feel gorgeous about themselves. Innovative choreographies to each song, it’s like going to a scheduled clubbing night out but in your yoga pants and trainers. So much fun.
Of course, yoga is still there. I’ve signed up 6 months in a new studio with a great vibe. It’s a mix of Hatha, Iyengar, Restorative and Yin yoga. The hardest thing ever for me to do. I’ve never been very drawn to the slower forms of yoga and Yin yoga is my biggest pain point. However, sitting with pain, practising self-love every other Wednesday and tapping into new areas have shown to be very beneficial.
I’ve tried some other Hatha yoga classes also and luckily there are yoga classes at the gym too. Yoga feels like home so increasingly I’ve been more and more to the gym yoga. Flow, Yin, and finally Ashtanga!
Same as cycling
This week I went to a led primary series class not knowing what to expect. A million thoughts went through my mind, “Will I be able to push up in Chaturanga Dandasana?” “What if I don’t remember?”. Once the class started I was home.
That feeling of no-thought, the body, although lacking practice, tapping into some unconscious yoga level. It was wonderful. It was exactly like cycling again. I didn’t need to hear the teacher, the body was just doing. Breath in, movement, breathe out, hold for five breaths, feel the flow in the body and it was like waking up from an igloo.
I could feel how whole me was smiling from the inside, enjoying every moment. Of course much stiffer than I once was, but does it matter? The teacher even did some adjustments, a great class!
After all the other training forms I’ve done. This was the class that made me have most muscle pain afterwards. From the inside out but in a good way. I’ve found my way back to Ashtanga love again 🙂 maybe a break was necessary.
So now what? I think I’ll go once a week to this class, mixing it up with some Zumba, Body Pump and Yin Yoga. Variety is maybe good for me, and just that feeling that oh! Only 3 days left for next Ashtanga class! It’s a wonderful feeling. Maybe I don’t’ need to practice 2h every day but once in a while. It’s my sacred space. Maybe in a few months, I’ll do more and more yoga and come back to the yoga vibe. But first transition and balance.
We always learn something. From having been so all in to nothing and perhaps now it’s time to find balance. Being kind to ourselves, do what feels good and listen to our minds and bodies, what do I need right now? And of course, sometimes it’s necessary to also do nothing and be able to sit in stillness.