Yoga is challenging. Any time a pose seems easy for me it turns out I’m doing it wrong. The instructors will say things like, “Um…What happened here?” Or my personal favorite when I thought I finally got a pose down to perfect, “Are you this way because of an injury?”
Beyond the challenging poses, getting myself into difficult shapes and holding them, I’ve found something to be even more challenging…
Knowing when your body cannot do them and modifying.
Modifying a pose has been much more challenging for me than doing a pose. Several months ago I pulled something in my neck. It’s some injury that I’ve been to physical therapy for and it seems to be really easy to repeatedly injure it in yoga if I’m not careful.
You may be saying, “Then quit doing yoga!” But, I LOVE yoga. It makes me feel grounded. I feel like I need that quiet and concentration because my mind wants to go, go, go, ALL THE TIME. Yoga reminds me to breath and let my mind have some time off.
But this injury has taught me that I can’t just do whatever I feel like and ignore it if my body doesn’t want to do something. If I push through it, I’m hurt for several weeks, but if I modify when it happens I can get back to my full practice sooner.
But my ego! My ego does not want to do baby cobra and put my knees down in plank. I want to wear a sign that says, “I can really do all these poses but I’m injured.” I know no one is competing with me, and I’m not competing with them, yet, I still struggle to let go of this idea that I have to do it all or else not go to class.
One instructor told me he once went to class and spent 45 minutes in child’s pose. To me, that is real strength.
To go into child’s pose for 45 minutes while everyone is moving and working hard around you—that is really the hard work! I don’t think I could do it, yet anyway.
But I’ve learned through this injury that I need to show up. I need to listen to my body and really take the time to make sure I’m doing the poses correctly so I don’t strain the injury and I continue to heal.
I had a teacher who said not to worry about anyone else. He said yoga is like when you look at a picture. You only see yourself in the picture and if you look good, it’s a good picture. I remind myself of that when I need that extra courage to take child’s pose. When I need to stay in baby cobra or table top instead of downward facing dog.
In every case, when I give myself permission to do only what my body can do that day, push only where I feel that I can, I leave with a sense of peace and accomplishment.
Even if no one knows it but me.
Modifying, resting. For me it has pushed me even more than when there was no injury.
Which is why I love yoga so much. It has never stopped challenging me, whatever phase of life I am in. It is always pushing me outside of my comfort zone, keeping my mind and body connected.
As long as I show up.
And listen to my body.
How about you? Do you feel allowing yourself to modify is actually harder than pushing through? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.