Yogi of February - Catherine
I always felt taking classes at SPACE was such a luxury. Looking out from the sixteenth floor, seeing the whole sky, stretches of the mountains, or the overlapping tall buildings, with noises of traffic below and the occasional panicky sound of ambulance passing by, yet we are immersed in our quiet deep breath, focusing inward, as if we are urban hermits, enjoying the quietness in the midst of chaos.
We feel the space outside of our body, and we also find the space inside; opening up the hips and shoulders, and opening up our ribs so the breath can fully flow. The ideal practice is to let the body be free and the mind at ease.
Yet most of us live today with thoughts on tomorrow, busy with our non-stop schedule. We become stiff-necked in front of the computer, and we armored up our muscles and nerves in the work arena. When we get to the yoga studio, our body still can’t let go the tension. Even we had practiced a lot the space of the body is still congested. What to do? As we watch others advanced towards challenging poses with flexibility and strength, other than admiring them secretly, what else can we do?
That’s how I was. After many years of practice, not only my body was not more open, I even got injured when I was trying a more difficult pose. Unwisely I was attempting to use other forces to compensate the limitation of my body.
I was always battling with time. Not wanting to sleep during the wonderful quiet nights. (Even though I vowed every time not to be attached, but I can’t resist that beautiful feeling of being the only person awake while all are asleep, so it became a vicious cycle.) I would foolishly set up a secret progress plan for my yoga practice, as if the body is like work, where the progression can be planned out and targets can be met at a specific time. As I graspingly practice trying to meet certain goals, I ignored signals from my body and never paid attention to the subtleties of the poses. This cycle continued as time went on: the more I practiced, the tighter my body became. Years later (it’s almost embarrassing to admit I have been at SPACE for more than five years), my body finally couldn’t take it anymore. Last April, I felt my already rigid body literally turned into an iron wall (it really is not an exaggeration; others had tested out with their fingers.)
What to do? I became the kind of student who needed to keep their knees bend to prevent back pain in shavasana. Pain and stiffness became a regular part of my life. What was I doing to my body?
What is required to shift our mindset? Each person may have his or her own way or answer. Now I would say it need time and space. For our yoga practice, I hope time becomes nourishment (and not toxin) and space is a hotbed (and not a cliff). To take care of my plaster-like body, I started to take body balancing and restorative yoga classes.
In my daily life, I started to deal with my long accumulated by going to sleep earlier, by giving myself time and space to rest. I began to listen to my body. Initially, I couldn’t hear anything. All I felt was achiness and tightness. It was frustrating to realize I was so disconnected from my body, that I have neglected my body, which should be the most intimate to me. This sense of helpless and defeat was no less than unable to do the wheel pose.
From the bottom of my heart, I’m sincerely grateful to Lily and Jo. What they faced was almost the mission impossible: they had more patience and confidence in dealing with my body.
And to Lynn, who always saw me dragging my fatigued body into class, I’m truly grateful for her indescribable acceptance and kindness. It just fills my heart.
Lastly, I want to thank Lee, whose class pace is very slow. If it was not for his earnest encouragements, I would have lost focus and let my brain take over my body again and neglect to attend to the subtle sensations of the body. In his very slow-paced classes, aside from being aware of the sensation of the small movements, it was also important to respect the body. Lee always reminded us not to accept any pain! If there was a discomfort, we should focus on other parts of body that was pain free, and allow the more comfortable part to adjust the uncomfortable part. He would also mention not move quickly; when we are slow, then we can feel which part of the body is stuck…
Maybe in real life it is feasible when you encounter a tricky question to face it head on and be in a hurry to resolve all the issues that are waiting for you to take care of, but when it comes to the body, our intimate and mysterious partner, at this moment, my heart says:
It’s faster to go slow!
Blessing to everyone.