I'd like to amend the previous post. After a hot yoga class today, my Ashtanga teacher (who happened to be at the studio) came over to talk to me. She asked me about coming back to practice, and I just broke down crying. I told her that everything hurts, that my hamstrings, hips, back, everything's tight. I lost my flexibility over winter break when I was at home and got stressed out. I can't even bend forward that well anymore. She told me to breathe. And to just. Let. Go. I guess I blame myself for so many things, and am struggling so hard to find my footing right now. To be honest, I feel overwhelmed and it's like the world is spinning. Things aren't easy right now. I wasn't breathing. We talked for a long time. About how the practice is not just a physical one. About how it is something that I have that can ground me during this difficult time. She reminded me of when she was in the hospital (the same one where I go to medical school, incidentally!) - I'd visited her there between classes, when I first started studying with her. After her hospitalization, she had to start over, not comparing her current practice with how it was before. She asked me why I push myself so hard. I push myself hard in every aspect of my life. Why is it that I have to force myself to do things that I don't like? There is no reason for that. I told her I had been doing that for my entire life. That I felt like if I didn't do the right things then people won't like me anymore. She reminded me that it's about doing things that are true to myself and loving myself for who I am and being with people who love me for who I am, not for the things I can do. I told her about wanting to go to India, and asked if she had suggestions for places. She said to just travel, because I'll make myself go crazy right now if I try to practice there. I told her that I'm so bad at doing nothing. That I can't just do nothing. I don't know how to do that. Everything always has to be for a reason. She told me to take my mat with me to India, and the beauty of Ashtanga is that it can be practiced anywhere, by myself.
I realized yoga is not about pushing. It's about letting go. Why is it that people say Ashtanga is intense or competitive or too hard or aggressive? It's not the practice that's too hard, or intense, or competitive. We make it that way with our egos.
Back to the basics.
And the amazing thing was, as I breathed, let go of all the tension and expectations and worries and concerns, I felt my muscles relaxing. As I sit and write this now, I am feeling significantly less pain. I was crying all the way home on the subway and in my room, got some strange glances along the way Uptown, but it was so necessary. It's as if the good cry and talk and just breathing has changed things. I hadn't even allowed myself a truly good cry after making the big decision, and I guess everything just came out.
This was a good lesson for me to learn. My teacher told me that too many people are afraid to change, and they'd rather just continue on the same miserable way. Twenty years down the line, it's even harder to change, and it doesn't get any easier.
The practice has taught me courage, for sure.
Be back on the mat on Sunday, learning to let go. I'll be hopefully practicing in a gentle way, a slower way, and a way that is not perfectionistic. The beginner's mind...