My students Thursday night asked me a couple of questions that I was not really prepared to answer. I tossed out the first thing that came to the top of my head, but after further reflection, I have more to add. It takes awhile for my brain to get into gear!
Question 1: What is the biggest change I have noticed with doing yoga regularly?
This one caused a rush of conflicting thoughts in my head, even though it seems like a simple question. A lot of this tumult of thought circled around, “I don’t actually DO yoga regularly!” I have a varied movement practice – I jog a couple of days a week, I lift a couple of days a week, I attend a yoga class once every couple of weeks, I do one of Jill Miller’s videos once or twice a week.
I’m conflicted about even calling myself a yoga teacher, in point of fact, because I feel as if it can give people the impression that I practice 6 days a week for 90 minutes everyday, and I can do handstands and splits and crazy binds. I can’t do any of that stuff, so I don’t teach any of that stuff. I help people understand their bodies better with the aid of the Yoga Tune Up® balls and mindful mobility and strengthening work. We crawl, we swing, we roll, we look at pictures of muscles in books. Is that “yoga”? Technically yes (as I understand it), but I fear it’s not what people typically consider yoga to be.
So once all of that darted through my head, I settled back on the question – what is the biggest chance I have noticed? I told the class that after taking the YTU Level 1 training, I noticed that I felt myself stacked over my feet better – like I wasn’t leaning forward all the time. That was the biggest change for me.
And that is true, but, upon reflection, what I have really noticed from my mindful movement practices is that I have more Awareness now. I notice when my shoulders start to creep up around my ears, I notice when I start breathing shallowly, I notice when random parts of my body tense up (like my hands or my belly), I notice (with a slight bit of detachment) when I feel annoyed or angry, I notice when my mind is going a million miles per minute. Sometimes I just notice these things. Sometimes I notice them and then try to change them – I will stretch, or roll on the balls, or reflect on whether it’s worth it to get angry about this situation. That Awareness is what I have noticed most from doing yoga.
Question 2: Does it ever get better, or do you have to constantly work at it (re: muscle tightness)?
My answer to this was, you really do need to keep working at it. You can’t just roll and relax and be done with it. You need a relaxation maintenance package. 🙂
And that is true! But what I forgot to mention was that if you change your habits (especially postural habits), you can start to alleviate tension all over the body. For example, if you stack your ears over your shoulders, it releases strain in the back of the neck, the back of the head, the tops of the shoulders, and the jaw.
So, while you still should continue to move your body as much as possible (whether in “yoga” or some other mindful movement practice), if you move your body BETTER and use Awareness to re-position yourself in a joint-stacked position, you will over time reduce pain and tension in the body. Instead of trying to fit another exercise class into your day to keep yourself supple, you can continuously adjust yourself as you are walking, reading, doing the dishes, working at your computer. As Katy Bowman always says, Stack Your Life! Improve your mobility while doing the other things in life you have to do.
I’m still not sure that fully answers both questions, but if I wait until I have a perfect answer, I will never get this posted!
Hope you are having a great Memorial Day weekend and that you can get out outside, put your toes in the grass, laugh with your friends and family, and eat delicious food!