Final blog for Yoga Challenge 2014!

Well hello!   The month of April has ended and sadly so has the yoga challenge.  I ended up doing 20 classes in 30 days, which is considered completion of the yoga challenge at Yoga Union.  So even though I didn’t reach my goal of 30 classes in 30 days, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  So far in the last three times I have attempted the challenge all kinds of life stuff has come up.  It begs the question of deep body work and what it will bring up for you..

I ended up pulling a deep groin muscle.  I have strained just about every part of my body in this yoga journey of many years.  I have strained peck muscles, hamstrings, hip flexors, gluteal muscles, shoulder muscles, neck muscles.  You name it, I have strained it, but what I have noticed is that I have rarely strained the same muscle or muscle group twice.  The healing process of recovering from a muscle strain is that you learn how far you can push that particular muscle in your body and also what else is connected to it that might be out of alignment which perhaps caused the strain in the first place.  The other factor is knowing when to be flexible and when to be strong.  Truly, poses seem to be mostly strength until the very last part of a pose which is flexibility.  You know you have gone to far when you just go into a deep pose and you can’t hold it or breath into it.  My teachers always say that if you have stopped breathing, you have gone too far.  I can say with certainty that whenever I have hurt myself, I know that I have gone too far.  I pushed myself too far or I wanted to keep up with others in the class, or I just got an ego about a certain pose and wanted to do it so bad that I forced myself into it… and whamoooo…  Injury occurs.

I have talked to many doctors of all kinds that warn against doing “too much” yoga.  They say the see all kinds of patients that have been seriously injured in a yoga class.  I have also seen and had many patients that have been doing yoga for years and years and end up wearing out a joint or overusing etc..  These are big lessons in having good and skilled teachers, knowing your body, paying attention to your body, leaving you ego at the door, remembering that this is not a competition, and taking baby steps to build your deep core strength while indulging in your flexibility at the same time.  I have yet to find a yoga pose where all parts of the body are not engaged in order to do it properly.  With so many aspects to think about when going into a pose, there is literally no time or space to think about anything else..  This is yoga.  Complete presence!  It is a complete connection between mind, body, and spirit.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I always get tripped up too on the fact that I have been practicing yoga in some form since the age of 12.  Even though the strength and flexibility I have gained are amazing to me, I still have not been able to take it to the next level and hop right up into a standing handstand or hold my body weight on my arms.  At this point I think I am likely strong enough, but I think my mind is blocking me.  So, this is my next challenge.  To let go of mental blocks that hold my body back.

The last three limbs of yoga are Dharana(concentration), Dhyana(meditation), and Samadhi(union with self with the object of meditation.  One thing I enjoy about yoga are poses the shift the equilibrium.  For instance, inverted poses in which we turn upside down and all the blood in our bodies rushes to our heads.  What an exhilarating feeling.  Balancing poses are also exhilarating in that the fierce concentration it takes to stay in a balance pose always lets me know if my equilibrium is on or off.  Balancing poses are amazing for pressing the restart button on the equilibrium and the nervous system.  I also think about the balance between the central nervous system and our bodies.  Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic.  Exertion vs Rest, Voluntary vs Involuntary…  But I digress.  These are topics for another day.

I would like to end with the last limb of yoga, which is Samadhi.  The ultimate union and knowing of ourselves.  Nurturing ourselves.  A quote from Rolf Gates goes as follows..”Samadhi, In and of itself it is, for most of us, simply a pleasant reality, like a blueberry muffin.  The lesson of Samadhi, however can only be reached through self forgetting, and that lesson can be applied in all things.”  And lastly, a prayer from Saint Francis, “Through self forgetting we find, we can love.”  It is so beautiful to think of this unity in ourselves and others.  Much love and Namaste!


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