Last time I wrote a blogpost I had conducted an experiment: NOT practicing yoga for a month. It was an interesting time, and what had instigated the experiment was that I experienced a sudden strong rejection of yoga. I started looking for alternative methods of exercise while criticising yoga. This has happened to me a few times during my past 12 years of yoga-travelling. Very few times, and with longer and longer periods in between…
So what has happened since?
Well, what has happened, is that I have completely fallen in love with yoga again. I have a new understanding for yoga and I feel so bonded with yoga. I feel as if it will stay with me forever, throughout this lifetime. I know it's necessary to question it sometimes, just like with any lifelong relationship, and every time I do, I come back even more convinced that it's an amazing thing. For me it is important to not just blindly DO something or stay with something just because it is comfortable. I think it's good to get out of the comfort zone, turn around, take a good look at it from the outside, and really ask oneself what it is we spend our time doing.
As this stepping out of yoga-experiment came together with recently having had a baby, I had obvious different aspects and reasons for rejecting it, too. The body is just NOT the SAME after giving birth… and it takes TIME for it to come back. But sure ― we can do a lot to help it back, as I discovered after the experiment.
As it turns out, once I got back to practicing, it was different. I approached it differently after all my questioning. I really started focusing on muscle-toning and building as opposed to stretching. Pulling everything in, instead of opening out.
A big part of my rejection against yoga during this month had been linked to an article on elephant journal [Ed. note: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/09/yogis-be-careful-with-your-joints-charlotte-bell/] which talked about the fact that many asana stretch ligaments around our joints, which are designed to limit movement. That the stretching which happens over time with yoga practice, is permanent and that many old-time yogis have to have joint-replacements. As I was postpartum stretched-out I could really relate to this. I felt as if yoga just worsened the feeling of the pelvis being aligned outwards (you know when you see pregnant women sitting with wide legs, like a real cowboy? Well that's because it is impossible to sit "normally" ― the hips are feeling dislodged and somewhat pointing out instead of parallel and forward! I had one of the biggest shocks of my life when I one day was asked in a prenatal class to check where my hipbones were. I was 8 months pregnant and my hipbones had moved so far out and back that I couldn't stop checking this physical change for the rest of that day with huge amazement.)
I am naturally quite flexible, which, I have discovered as I am slowly getting older, as are we all, can start to get both painful and uncomfortable. I'm sure it will get much more painful and uncomfortable with time if I continue to help the process speed up. I had been aware of this already since I had a period of practicing Anusara yoga during 2005, when the teacher told me to "micro-bend" in the elbows and knees and "hug the muscles to the bone" so that I would protect my joints from my hyperextension. So I was aware, and I knew it was important for me to focus on protecting joints and build muscle strength around them instead. But now, much later, when my body had been through the intense experience of pregnancy and all the body changes that come with it, I’ve realised this on a much deeper level. Things can seem far away and unimportant when we are young 20-somethings and we like to get into Eka Pada Rajakapotasana just because it is so fun and easy.
But being a mother, and being older, made me realise that I do want to invest in my body's health. It's not that important anymore to do beautiful postures. It's much more important to have this inner source of longevity, health and energy that yoga can provide us with for many, many years – if, and only if, practiced right and according to our body type.
So I'm doing abdominal work, push-ups and things like that integrated into my yoga practice, and it feels great to be strong again. Building muscles up almost from scratch gives me a new understanding and feeling for my body. I need strength for this time in my life, and I need to relieve a lot of upper back and neck tension from carrying my baby. I need a place to come and release, let go, relax (from responsibility), and I need to get back to myself and re-connect every day, and yoga gives me all of this.
Yoga practice can evolve as we evolve and change as we change. Whatever challenge or whichever phase we are in life, our yoga practice can be tailor-made to suit us.
I absolutely love my yoga practice again, and of course, I don't have so much time for it, so the very small ― but frequent practices ― really refresh me and make me feel new and strong. I feel like ME again, and much stronger than I ever was.
I would strongly recommend to anyone to always question what they do, why they do it, and for whom. It's no good to just keep on doing the same thing we always did in the same way we always did it. We change, and so should everything change with us. And then I mean not just our yoga practice, but also our jobs, friends, places we live, travel to, stuff we eat… Don't let anything become a routine and don't take anything for granted, know yourself and actively participate in your life by constantly checking your choices. Because we all DO have a choice, all the time, each breath.