Yesterday I saw a Network Chiropractor for an assessment. He checked out my body and told me where there were stress patterns, how old they were and what is out of alignment. Considering the immense amount of chronic stress I’ve had, it’s a wonder I feel and look as good as I do.
Today I did a yoga class and thought about how I started doing ashtanga yoga in 2000. I had no clue how to breathe, had been very sedentary and stressed out, and frankly hated it but needed something desperately, so I kept doing it. It was torture and I could barely hold my arms up in Warrior 2, so I’d do this sort of slow motion flying flap thing of holding my arms up, letting them down for a few seconds., and bringing them back up again. It looked really stupid, but there was no other way for me to begin getting strong enough to hold them up.
Then there was the stress incontinence, chronic constipation, weight gain,desperation and rage that began around 2002 when my life continued to be a hell of insecurity. My mother began to have dementia,was losing her ability to take care of herself, and I had to begin caregiving her and my partner was a horrible burden. I had made my way into being able to endure the long and difficult silences, the seemingly impossible positions, breathe correctly and increased my flexibility. I’d tasted the health and well being a continued yoga practice brings, but it was still emotionally hard for me to do. I loved how I felt after, and now it was even harder.
But part of my stress was a loss of a sense of smell and there was nothing more torturous than being in a packed yoga class and having to wonder if I was stinking of urine and body odor. When you get heavier, the weight makes you feel like an ugly giant and in order to keep going you have to “modify”. This is a fancy word for a) NOT DOING stuff that’s going to mess you up and b) changing parts of the oh so pure form oriented yoga into something else, often which bears little resemblance to what it’s supposed to be and look like.
I was 20 lbs heavier, stressed out, and in some chronic pain for years while I was mired in non stop caregiving. I learned to “modify” the basic vinyasa chataranga move so I could get through a yoga class and not quit by doing what is called a reverse cobra, not strain my joints and be exhausted. Every extra pound we carry creates tremendous strain on our bones, joints and tissue. At 185lbs on up, my extra weight was something I could not ignore or I’d injure myself.
This move, which I personally call the Flapjack Vinyasa, consists of jumping my feet back into plank, and slowly, from ankles to head, laying/rolling the body down for a second before the usual cobra pose and downward dog. In a normal vinyasa, one is supposed to do a plank, then lower one’s body straight down like the second part of a pushup, and then push through forward on the chest with the arms to set up for the next position of cobra and so on. This move saved me from quitting, most frankly, and I learned to not give a damn about what anyone, yoga teacher or not thought about me doing it. I do yoga for myself and my health, and if anyone can’t handle that, it’s their problem.
The fact I have persisted in doing yoga, even when I felt really fed up with it and all the bullshit of people doing it, is a miracle I am now grateful for. I have gone for periods without doing any, or little sporadically, but somehow I have never completely stopped. I have no quarrel with the fact that yoga can make you feel better and keep you able to move. I don’t want to even begin to think what I’d be like without it.