Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: Ashtanga

Getting Back Into Yoga

Getting back into yogaDo you find it hard to get back into something after a break? I’ve experienced this recently with yoga (and blogging actually, oops…) It’s not that I stopped practising, I just hadn’t been doing as much, which I’m ok with. But it was when I found myself getting genuinely cross because my bus was 3 minutes late that I realised it I needed some yoga love back in my life (yes, doing yoga makes me a nicer person.)

But actually getting back into yoga wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found helped:

  1. Clarify your motivations. I made a list of all the reasons I wanted to get back into yoga. They included everything from, “I’ll get better at keeping things in perspective,” to, “My back won’t hurt as much after I’ve been sitting writing.”
  2. Make a plan and keep it simple. In the past whenever I’ve wanted to get back into yoga, I’ve gone back to Ashtanga yoga, because it’s disciplined, I know it well, and I can just follow the set structure. But this time I wasn’t keen to do that. Instead I chose an online yoga class from Meghan Currie (look her up – she’s amazing) on Ekhart Yoga. It was an hour long and incorporated lots of stuff I wanted to work on – forearm balance, handstands and backbends. I decided to do this every day for a week. Simple.
  3. Stick to it. Once I’m into something, I’m pretty good at sticking to it, but I find the first few days of a new routine the hardest. So I refused to let myself skip a day or shorten the practice, because that would only make it harder to do it properly the following day.
  4. Remember to enjoy it. During the yoga class, I’d try to focus on the bits that felt good, and really notice them. I’d find ways to make my sessions nicer – lighting a candle, wearing my favourite leggings (in the picture – I actually love them) and hanging out for a little bit longer in postures I was enjoying. And at the end of the practice, I’d take time to acknowledge all the positives that came from it – strength, flexibility, mindfulness etc.
  5. Review it. After my week of doing the same thing every day, I wanted to mix it up a bit. I’m over my Ashtanga phase of making myself do the same thing repeatedly just to see how far I can push it. Variety is more fun. So my plan is now to do that class twice per week, and other kinds of yoga on the remaining days. I’ve added in some yin yoga, some core strengthening classes and sessions where I just play and see what I feel like doing.

Has it worked? In a word, yes. I can already feel the difference in my flexibility and strength. And crucially, I’m loads more patient waiting for buses. Or at least I’m working on it…

 

What I learned doing yoga in Thailand

Chiang MaiI started out my solo travels in the north of Thailand with the best of intentions – every morning I would wake up at sunrise, do my self-practice of yoga, then meditate for 20 minutes before going for a healthy breakfast and beginning my day of travelling and exploring. It would be perfect. It was my opportunity to be completely on my own agenda with no distractions. This is what I learned:

  1. It is possible to take budgeting too far. I was so excited when I found a place to stay for just 100 Baht (around £2) per night. I was less excited when I discovered that my “bed”, essentially a mattress pad, was exactly 13cm away from my neighbours on each side. Never mind finding space to lay my yoga mat on the floor, finding space to roll over without becoming rather too acquainted with the snoring stranger next to me proved impossible. Needless to say, after a sleepless night or two, my yoga practice was the furthest thing from my mind…
  2. 39 degree heat is not conducive to an effective Ashtanga yoga practice, at least not for me. It is one thing to do hot yoga deliberately in a specially designed pod. Doing it accidentally in a sweat box of a room is an altogether different experience, and not a pleasant one. It made me question how and why Ashtanga yoga could possibly have originated in India. Given any kind of hot climate I think I would have developed a regime with a whole lot more lying flat on my back, and a whole lot less actual movement.
  3. There is something to be said for being physically comfortable. I came to Thailand with all these ideas about how I did not need anything – how I could live in the most basic of conditions, and I could do without any home comforts. And I can. But I realised that to be completely honest, I’d rather not. I actually quite like sleeping in a room which is free from cockroaches and mosquitos. I appreciate clean sheets, and air conditioning, and showers that run for long enough for me to rinse the conditioner from my hair. Who knew.
  4. Too much Chang (Thai beer) and yoga do not mix. That stuff is lethal. Nuff said.
  5. Yoga classes are invaluable. After 10 days of struggling to find the physical or mental space to do my self-practice, I needed some external motivation. I found it, in the form of Tara, a fantastic yoga teacher at NAMO Yoga in Chiang Mai. Her class reminded me why I love yoga, and what I’d been missing. Best of all, I drew energy and discipline from the other students in the class, and no longer felt that this was my solo battle.

On my last day, having treated myself to a better room, I finally managed what I had been aiming for all along. I woke up (hangover-free), rolled out my mat and practised underneath my fan with the sunlight streaming through the window. I then took a hot shower and walked to pick up a fresh coconut, kombucha tea and vegan muesli for breakfast. Okay, so it took me two weeks, but I got there in the end. And in that moment of smug satisfaction, it was all worth it.

3 ways Ashtanga yoga proved me wrong

ShouderstandsUp until last year, I’d had very limited experience of Ashtanga yoga – I’d been to one class and had watched a few Youtube clips. I was not a fan. However, over the last few months, Ashtanga yoga has somehow seeped into my life, and I’ve worked my way up to a six-day per week Primary Series practice. One of the best things has been in the number of ways this daily practice has proved me wrong! These are 3 of my misconceptions…

  1. In Ashtanga, you need to perform advanced asanas perfectly

My first Ashtanga class felt competitive and almost aggressive.  I really wanted to like it, and to like it I thought I had to be “good” at it. I was so attached to the idea of achieving the perfect asana that when I couldn’t, I got frustrated. I looked around the class and saw others flowing through their vinyasas and seemingly effortlessly moving into postures I found painful just to watch. I wondered how the hell I was doing so badly, and strangely enough, I found an excuse not to go back the next week!

I now realise that the competitiveness and desire for perfection came from me. No one in that class told me that I had to perform each pose fully, perfectly, or even attempt it at all if it was beyond my capabilities. The aggressive attitude was fuelled not by the teacher or the style of yoga, but my own ego. I wasn’t willing to allow myself to be a beginner. Once I let go of the desire to do it “well” and just focused on the process of moving towards each asana, I found it to be a very different experience.

  1. Ashtanga hurts

Two years ago, doing a workout programme called Insanity (not an ironic name, as it turned out!), I injured my lower back, which caused chronic pain. Lots of nerve irritation and muscles in spasm did not go well with trying to force myself into the forward bends of the Primary Series during that first Ashtanga class, and I spent most of the class and the week after it in agony.

I realise now that the increased pain was not caused by Ashtanga but by my approach to it. I was trying to push through and ignore painful sensations. So when I tried it again, I went back to basics. I carefully, taught myself the asanas one at a time and valued the correct alignment more than going deeply into postures. In the process I learnt about my body – what worsened the back pain and what helped. I tried to lengthen, rather than bend into forward folds. I learnt the importance of strengthening and engaging my core, and found that hip openers greatly relieved the tightness in my lower back. I am still learning, but my pain is significantly reduced, despite the fact I am doing more physical activity than ever.

  1. Ashtanga is boring

When I first realised that Ashtangis do the same sequence of postures every time they practise, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I crave variety and change, and the thought of doing the same thing every single day seemed mind-numbingly dull. Even once I decided to give Ashtanga another try, I wasn’t keen on repeating it every day. I wanted to avoid those asanas that didn’t feel good and spend more time playing with the ones I could do.

But what I experimented with was just noticing those thoughts, and then continuing with my practice anyway. I found physical and mental strength in the discipline of not following my thought patterns into altered behaviour. And I began to tune into the subtle differences in my experience and the sensations of the asanas each day. When I did this, my practice became anything but monotonous. Every session is unique, and following the same series of asanas allows me to be more sensitive to the differences I feel in my body.

I’m just at the beginning of my journey with Ashtanga, and it’s already proved me wrong on many counts. I think this is a good thing, because it means I must be learning!  It’s not the only style of yoga I enjoy, but it has become the “bread and butter” of my self-practice.

Has anyone else had a change of heart about Ashtanga? Do you love it or hate it? Please comment and let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Bitnami