30 Days of Yoga: Weeks 2 & 3

Well well well… confession time. I’ve dropped the commitment and let life get away with me again! There is definitely a mental block for me when it comes to practicing at home. The good news, I’ve been going to yoga classes 2-3 x a week so its not as if I’ve not been doing yoga.

Reading through Marianne’s PDF booklet of the blog posts, week two was ‘Keep this party jumping’ and there were some good tips on how to integrate a home practice into a busy life.

One of the key messages I took away from the guide was that “I am bringing a wise inner teacher who always knows what is best for my body”.  This is a good one to stop and reflect on.  I am a wise inner teacher and if I listen to myself I know that:

  • I really do want to have some sort of a daily practice and be a bit more disciplined about it. Sometimes I’m a bit lazy or am struggling to put my wellbeing first.
  • Right now ‘a little every day’ is better for me than ‘a lot every now and then’.
  • I need a more challenging physical practice as my health is deteriorating at the moment, I’m putting on weight due to the new medication I’m on and I’m getting ‘soft’.  My current practice of going to classes 2-3 x a week isn’t enough.
  • My home practice at the moment is very much freestyle and a bit unruly. I do what feels right and often end up doing physio exercises on the mat (habit). I’m not loving being on my mat at home, I think because of my history of using a home practice to do physio exercises. This mindset can be changed. Part of the intention I set was to bring joy to my practice.  Perhaps I can do this via listening to music as I practice.
  • I like to break out into random stretches doing my day, half of my stretches are yoga moves. I like to do yoga everywhere.  Sometimes I even mediate on the tube!
  • I’ve been pretty exhausted in the last few months and I need to cut myself some slack. Sometimes no yoga is my yoga.  Yoga Nidra helps immensely when I’m over tired.

The good yoga news since my last update. I’ve booked in to work with a teacher in Prague who will be teaching me the basics of the Prana Vashya yoga sequence. This is the yoga practice I used to do before I hurt my hip all those years ago. The sequence is quite athletic which is why I’ve decided to learn it slowly while based in London. I’m hoping I can build it up in 2016 and be at a point where I can return to Mysore (India) to study it with my Indian yoga teacher and international yoga friends.  It’s nice to have a goal.

But back to the present.  Er…30 days.  Where did my commitment go?  I think tiredness and my lack of routine has killed my commitment, so its time to focus (once again) on routine. Something I know my body needs/wants and something I struggle to follow.  I’m going to give up on trying to do my home practice in the morning and introduce it as an early evening or before bed activity. This is when I typically go to classes anyway, so its what my body is used to.  I think I’ll also consider going back to the videos and the practice Marianne has given me, aiming to do that particular practice 1-2 x a week.

I’m going to go back to day 10. 20 days to go.  Lets see how I get on!

30 Days of Yoga: Days 4 -6

The days are flying by! Today is day 6 of my 30 days of yoga challenge. I’ve been on the mat, however my practices at home are a bit half hearted. Yesterday I did nothing. Today I did a short practice & finished with a yoga nidra*. During the yoga nidra I fell asleep, so I’m obviously still pretty worn out from the travel and from being unwell. Today I was going to go to an evening class but I’ve decided not to, I’ll have a bath instead. My reserves are quite low and it’s too cold outside.

* yoga nidra is  like a guided meditation and is very relaxing, its known as ‘yogic sleep’ but you aren’t actually supposed to fall asleep.

30 Days of Yoga: Day 3

It is day 3 and I’m back in London. Today I went to my usual Iyengar yoga class and it was tiring but lovely. I’m jet lagged, anaemic and seriously lacking in strength. I got through the class OK but had to modify towards the end as I could’t hold myself up for shoulder stand or head stand. Because of my iffy neck I’ve not been able to do either for months now, so I have an alternative finishing sequence.

I’m 95% OK to modify in class these days and I’m happy to drop out of a posture and into child’s pose when I need to. This is a huge step from where I was before hip surgery when I’d go to classes and get frustrated. To be fair, before surgery I couldn’t do 75% of the class without triggering pain in my hip so no wonder I got pissed off with myself! These days I’m progressing in my practice and feel my strength is returning very slowly but surely.

 

30 Days of Yoga – setting the intention

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!

  

I am OK

A lot has happened since my last post “Are you OK” and the good news is that I am now OK. I’ve caused a lot of worry to friends and family, but I’m doing OK now. And very grateful for the support of family & friends.

I can always tell when I’m struggling as I stop writing. To be honest, I stopped writing this blog mostly because I’ve been doing really well. The recovery from hip surgery is a distant memory and I’m enjoying a more active lifestyle. I still have joint pain due to the hyper-mobility but it is very mild compared to what I’ve been through in recent years.  Life is actually pretty good. Winter has been tough though and I don’t think the UK climate is good for me, I can feel it in my joints.

My work-life balance hasn’t been good either and I think I underestimated how stressful it is to settle in London.  I’ve not yet made friends outside of work, and in recent months work has taken over. Something I’ve addressed now and 2016 looks to be an exciting year for me. This year I’m focusing on the yoga (of course), writing & music. I hope that if I do the things I enjoy, I’ll make friends and my social circle in London will grow.

 

The best Thai massage ever

Oh my goodness, just had the best (and most painful) Thai massage ever. This guy found all the sore spots  straight away and was incredibly strong. He has studied massage in Thailand, and Chinese medicine in China and Taiwan. And best of all, he came to our house!

I think my yoga practice tomorrow will be very different than it was today.