I started yoga in December 2008 while travelling India. I was on a 4-5 month trip around Nepal and India and thought ‘while I’m in india I might as well try yoga’. So I googled and google led me to Vinay Kumar of Prana Vashya Yoga. I turned up to his small shala (yoga school) naively believing that yoga was simply a form of exercise. His intensive course is rather intensive and I learnt that yoga is so much more. I was hooked, a year later I went back to do the intensive but while preparing for the trip I injured my hip at the gym. I know that yoga is partially to blame for my hip injury. As is the gym. I was doing a deep squat with 20kg on my back and ‘ping’ – I tore ligamentum teres the ligament right at the top of the femur. Ouch.
I have learnt the hard way that too much flexibility can be a bad thing. I’ve learnt that some of my joints are hyper-mobile and this means yoga comes easily to me. It also means I can injure my joints easily, hence the sore ankles, knee, sacrum, shoulder and neck. I’ve learnt that I need to use my muscles to stabilise my joints. So good muscle tone is important and regular massage is necessary.
For almost 5 years I couldn’t attend classes without really flaring up my hip pain. Since I arrived in London I’ve managed to return to yoga asana (postures) slowly and carefully. I’d say it was a year after my 2nd surgery that I started to feel ‘normal’ in class and stopped needing to modify the class to suit the hip. I am learning to ‘pull back’ a little when I’m doing yoga to avoid over stretching my ligaments.
Because of the hyper-mobility I have had to learn to create new good habits and focus on using the right muscles, this is really hard and takes a lot of concentration. It is very easy for me to cheat in a yoga class and use my flexibility to make pretty shapes! Iyengar yoga has been great for learning good technique and my yoga teacher Lorraine from Art of Yoga has been helping me build a strong foundation for my yoga practice. Iyengar yoga is very traditional and involves holding the postures for a longer time than most other types of yoga, there is also a focus on correct alignment and not much flow. I think its a great choice for people with injuries or chronic pain.
After months of Iyengar yoga my physiotherapist told me I now need to challenge my joints and that a flowing yoga practice (vinyasa) would be good for me. I was very happy to hear this as my old yoga practice was flowing and my body loves to move. So for the last few months I have been experimenting with various classes in London and to be honest I have been horrified with what I’m finding and am struggling to find a teacher I can work with. Yoga in the west appears to be interpretive and I feel the teachings from India are getting so diluted, sometimes what is called yoga is not actually yoga.
In a way, not finding a second London teacher is good as it is encouraging me to work on my home practice. After a few weeks of trying to do my own home practice with mixed results, I’ve signed up for Marianne Elliott’s 30 days of yoga. Marianne was one of my favourite teachers in Wellington back in 2009/2010. She is an inspirational woman (check out her website) and her online yoga course has elements of movement, flow, kindness and mindfulness. Just what I’m looking for.
I’ve signed up for her ‘Energising and opening flow’ as my injuries are relatively minor and I feel ready for this type of practice. She has included a restorative class for the days when I’m not up for a strong practice.
My intention for the next 30 days is simply to turn up to the mat, check in and listen to my body. Then I will practice with ease and joy. My intention is to enjoy the yoga, have fun and let go a little. I will use this blog to journal my progress. Wish me luck!