Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Daily practice

What happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day

I’ve spent the last 10 days in Guatemala for the first part of my 500 hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga. The experience has been incredible, not least because we’ve done an hour of meditation every morning followed by a 3 hour yoga workshop. This is what I’ve found happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day…

  1. Much of what you can’t do is in your mind.

Being challenged to try new things, and to keep trying them is a really good thing. There have been many postures, like Astavakrasana (in the picture) that I’d not done before because I assumed I couldn’t do them. Life lesson there. It’s also tempting to give up when you can’t do something the first time you attempt it. But when you do try again, it’s amazing how quickly your body learns.

  1. Your body can also be the most frustrating thing.

That said, there are still plenty of postures that I feel like I “should” be able to do now after doing so much yoga, but my body isn’t ready for yet. Full Hanumanasana (splits) for example – I mean seriously, I’ve been practising every day for the last six months! But yoga tunes you into your body’s the innate intelligence and what that can teach you. Unfortunately, for certain things, the lessons are in patience and acceptance of where you are right now. It’s about trusting that with consistent practice the posture will come, when and if your body is ready.

  1. Yoga tells you what you need and when.

On a similar note, unlike fitness training, where you might set specific goals, yoga has a tendency to dictate what your body needs next. This may or may not be the same as your ideas. I came to Guatemala thinking that I’d done enough strengthening work, and it was time to improve my flexibility. I probably have improved my flexibility a little, but what doing yoga for 3 hours every day here has really taught me is that I still need to get stronger. Much stronger.  Because I’m naturally hypermobile I have muscle groups that need strengthening before I develop a greater range of motion. Yoga won’t let me ignore that in the way that I could if I was training in the gym.

  1. Progress isn’t linear.

My first morning of practice here was amazing. My hips felt super-open, I managed Dragonfly pose for the first time and everything came very naturally. I thought I’d nailed it.  I had visions of myself levitating by the end of the week. The next day, everything hurt. My legs felt like they were made of stone. Even handstands, which I usually love,were a massive effort. You have to accept that even when you do yoga for 3 hours per day, not every day is a “breakthrough day”. Some days have been about practising gratitude and surrendering to the reality exactly as it shows up.

  1. Doing so much yoga feels amazing.

Before I came out to Guatemala, I’d been doing lot of other exercise as well as yoga, like spinning and interval training. I thought I’d miss that when I came to just doing yoga. I even told myself I might carry on some fitness training in my breaks. No chance. My short breaks are spent reading my course books while trying to catch a few rays of sunshine. But I’ve loved it. My body and mind feel really good for the consistency and routine of this daily practice.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how I can carve 3 hours out of every day to practise yoga when I leave here…

Happy yoga-ing lovely people!

Jade xxx

Facing my fears at Suryalila Retreat Centre

TSuryalilahey say you should do something every day that scares you. I feel like I’ve been living by that mantra both on and off my yoga mat in my first week as a Workaway volunteer at Suryalila Retreat Centre.

When I arrived here last week, I was assigned the task of looking after the resident chickens. In the sunshine, as I was shown how to feed the chickens and collect their eggs, this seemed lovely. The next day, when it was freezing, and the rain had turned the field into a mud bath, it was less delightful. Fighting my way past hissing geese, I made it to the chicken coop, where most of the chickens were huddled out of the rain. I glanced to the side and saw one chicken on top of another. Oh look, I thought, 2 chickens having sex, how cute. Then I realised that the one on the bottom was dead. Horrified, I forgot all about collecting the eggs, and ran straight back to the centre, where my host told me that this was no big deal – lots of the chickens are very old and may well die soon. He calmly explained the “chicken disposal process” (essentially bag it, and bin it).

The walk back to the chicken coop, bin bag in hand, tears rolling down my face, was not a pleasant one. I tried to tell myself that this was nothing – it’s perfectly natural for old chickens to die, and really not a big deal to get rid of a chicken corpse. This didn’t help. I’m still not sure what I found so terrifying about getting a dead chicken into a bag, but I suppose fears aren’t always rational. It took a very long time to get the body bagged for removal. It was such a relief when I was finally able to leave the coop and know I didn’t have to return for another 24 hours. Surely I would not be unlucky enough for this to happen again anytime soon.

Unfortunately, luck was not on my side. The next day brought another dead chicken. I don’t know statistically how improbable 2 deaths in 2 days is for a relatively small brood of chickens, but this did not seem like very fair odds to me. At least this time I was slightly more prepared. I had bin bags with me, and although disposing of the body still left me retching, at least I didn’t cry this time. Which I am considering huge progress.

I have also been making considerable progress in my yoga practice at Suryalila. The daily vinyasa yoga classes here are brilliant. Except on my teacher training, I have never practised yoga so intensively, and I am loving it. The yoga teachers have been great at helping me to overcome some of my non-chicken-related fears. For the first time this week I have managed to kick up into a handstand properly, rather than jumping into it, and I have finally moved away from the wall and attempted a headstand in the middle of the room, under the watchful eye of my lovely teacher. Admittedly when I tried this again on my own, I fell over, but as she pointed out, once you’ve fallen, the fear isn’t so bad. And she’s right.

So I’m really excited and slightly terrified about the other challenges Suryalila has in store for me over the next three weeks. I feel like I’m learning a lot and being pushed out of my comfort zone, which was the whole point of this trip in a lot of ways. As long as there are no more dead chickens, I think I’ll be fine…

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!

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