Before I sat down to write this, I searched my blog for “yoga.” I’ve been doing yoga since 2016, I think, and writing about it for as long. It was fun to read about where I was with it back when I started. I know my yoga practice has changed since I began – for instance, I call it a practice now instead of just “doing yoga” – but this year may be the year it’s changed the most.
In 2017, I wrote this post about my yoga practice at the time. I spent a lot of the post lamenting how my lack of flexibility was limiting some of the poses I could do. In particular, I noted that I was this close to being able to fold forward and put my hands flat on the ground. But I wasn’t there yet. I am today. Now, I’m working toward front splits and better shoulder flexibility.
Along with my increased flexibility, I’ve also learned to listen to my body better. I’m glad I somehow avoided sequences that are too challenging, because I used to push myself into whatever the instructor was doing, even when they offered modifications. There’s definitely a place for pushing yourself, but I also know better when to back out of the pose and do a different variation. I know how to use tools to create a better practice, as well. I got some yoga blocks and use them frequently, and am hoping for a set of straps for Christmas to replace the bathrobe belt I use as a strap now. (Ha.)
I also started working on inversions for the first time this year, which has been exciting! During March, when I was working from home, I got into a headstand for the first time. I am still working on my balance in that pose and can’t hold it for long. But adding that to my practice has renewed my enthusiasm for getting on the mat (not that it ever really left, though). Now that I can do that, I’ve been working on handstands and pincha. Pincha is HARD for me. I don’t know whether it’s my core strength or shoulder flexibility that’s lacking, but honestly, it has been kind of nice to practice something I can’t do. I had gotten into a yoga rut, I think, by using the same YouTube tutorials over and over. I will always love and return to Yoga with Adriene – her outlook on life is *chef’s kiss* – but I’ve found other YouTube channels that do more intermediate classes and it’s been fun to try them out.
The poses in yoga are really fun to talk about, but there is so much more to yoga than shapes. I have been learning this slowly the entire time I’ve been practicing, but this year has really put it in perspective. For one, I listened to the podcast Yoga is Dead (review here) and learned a TON about the history and industry of yoga. I realize that yoga began as a spiritual Hindu practice, and I am working on being aware of how I honor yoga’s roots when I talk about and do yoga with others. I need to find a good book to read on this. (Update: Immediately after publishing this I remembered that Embrace Yoga’s Roots by Susann Barkataki got released TODAY! Will likely be buying this one.)
I’ve also finally added meditation to my practice – not all the time, but sometimes. And I’ve enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Before this year I did not know that yoga began as a way to prepare monks for meditation. Knowing that encouraged me to stop skipping the short meditations I sometimes find at the end of yoga videos and it’s been a really effective way to quiet the mind.
Plus, when you think of yoga as a moving meditation instead of a series of poses, it’s easier to truly understand how yoga is for everyone. You don’t have to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel to do yoga. Honestly, you don’t even need to be able to walk or even stand. If have a mind, you can meditate, and if you can meditate, you can do yoga. I have read about people who are paralyzed being able to participate in yoga by joining in breathing exercises, using their arms instead of their legs, or even just visualizing the poses in their minds. Whether the yoga industry here in the US is actually including everyone is a whole nother story, but the fact is that at its core, yoga is one of the most inclusive practices there is. Yoga is for everyone. Period.
Have you learned anything new lately about something you’ve been doing for awhile?