Measuring yoga

Covid-19 cases and deaths in UK remains high (higher than anyone cares to notice or talk about) but strangely life is returning to something vaguely akin to the ‘old normal’ for many as formal restrictions have been largely lifted. I’ve been going to in person yoga class again regularly for a while now. The studio I go to has been maintaining a reduction in student numbers and increased hygiene policy but otherwise it seems pretty much as it used to be.

Except that it doesn’t really. The student composition has changed dramatically for example. Many old regulars never came back. My teacher said it feels as though he’s starting again. There’s a shift in his teaching that I can’t quite put my finger on. Is it his attempts to manage a new group and help them cohere and get comfortable together or is it just that’s chronically tired of the whole business? Of course I think he does a wonderful job however he’s feeling privately and I’m happy to be there. It is the same, only different for me. I try to show up for each class with an open mind, trying to come afresh without expectations of how my practice will be or how the class will feel.

This week my teacher directed a new-comer to put her mat by me, rather than in the front row. I chatted with her a little while everyone was settling. She was much younger than me and full of enthusiasm for yoga classes, telling me how she loved to go to early morning class when she lived in London, how refreshed and energised she felt, so virtuous after her practice. It was kind of sweet to hear!

Once class started, I mostly ignored her. I tend to get a bit intense in my own practice and focus only on my teacher’s instructions. He was talking about exploring our edge and keeping our practice sustainable, creating a challenge in which we might grow but without driving ourselves too far. We should be measured. Of course, he then led us through several more than the regular number of sun salutations to see if we were still rhythmic, still breath-led, not over-exerting in a way we couldn’t maintain. I became vaguely aware of my yoga neighbour increasingly opting out the vinyasas, in the standing poses she was noticeably wobbly and by the hand-balances she was sitting down untidily and obviously taking a rest, looking sweaty and tired and slightly baffled, I thought, by how difficult she was finding it.

I noticed this and was reminded of my earlier yoga days in this same studio when I could only get part way through the class before I needed to rest. Before I learned how to measure myself, I would throw myself unskilfully into the practice until I could do no more and just collapsed in a sweaty mess. Later on I understood the timing and the sequence better and I could measure my energies through the full class. Now my measure is different: I measure my breath and my thoughts more than my body. If the breath is smooth and the thoughts even, my body usually comes along. There are some practices I find more tiring, some require technical skills I haven’t yet mastered, some introduce new poses I’m uncertain about and don’t have a sure approach to — but otherwise I usually feel relatively strong in my body.

But it wasn’t always like this. I vividly remember early on my teacher asking me after Sunday morning class what plans I had for the rest of the day. Of course he was just being friendly. But I heard his question as a cruel taunt. How could I possibly have enough energy after that class to do anything other than drink coffee and then sleep all afternoon on the sofa?! I have changed so much since then. Coincidentally my mother-in-law commented similarly last week. When she met me I was chronically sick and really weak. Now she says I’m the best advert for yoga and vegetarianism ever! I’m so happy she sees me like this and takes pride in all my hard work and persistence. I am proud too. It still seems a miracle to be like this now, but it’s a miracle I have created.

I hope my new yoga friend comes back for more next week 🙂

caturanga credit: istockphoto

bakasana credit: Scarlet Adrianne

3 thoughts on “Measuring yoga

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  1. I am happy she opted out when she needed to rather than force herself to follow a pacing she didn’t have energy for at that particular moment in time and that you are happy with your progress. I hope she didn’t compare herself to others. It is so important for everyone to pace themselves rather than force something that isn’t there at that moment.


    1. totally agree! for me it took a long time to know how not to push myself and to learn that it’s Ok to do what you need to in the yoga room and that there’s genuinely no judgement in that. so different to other life experiences for me! thank you so much for your comment — these are such valuable reminders.

      Liked by 1 person

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