Everything Changes and How Yoga Helps

Anne is back with another article!

Today’s article made me blush when I first read it. Anne is very generous with words! She reminds up that everything changes and it is up to us to fight it or to adapt to it. Yoga helps to adapt and to understand. Join Anne as she shares her journey of self-exploration and yoga!

I first met Nadya Andreeva, who created this lovely website, at Strala Yoga where she teaches on Tuesday nights.  She is a great teacher. I can never do everything Nadya covers in her class. Usually I’m at about a 70% level and that’s fine by me.  I can’t do a handstand, or even a very stable headstand.  I can’t put all my body weight onto my arms as in Crow, or Peacock, or Rooster. Standing balancing poses are super challenging for me (which means I fall over a lot, but I pick myself up and try again, always).  She fills the class with super stretches though, so that even when she has spent a lot of time on some Side-Crow craziness that I am years away from, I still feel great afterwards. 

Nadya has the gift, which all expert yoga teachers have, of relaxing and warming up your body, stretching it, and then counter-stretching it afterwards to balance it out.  The next day after one of Nadya’s super challenging classes, I never feel sore because my body was ready for what she put it through.  My muscles and fascia feel comfortably alive and nothing hurts. 

It’s important to find a teacher you like to work with in yoga. While you’re first starting out, try lots of teachers and see which one makes you feel good, challenged and engaged, with no pain.

It’s so very critical that you not hurt yourself doing yoga.  I see nothing wrong in adopting a cautious approach to poses you try and the time you hold them. Don’t show off. Nobody else cares. They’re busy on their own mat with their own practice. You are taking class for YOU. You’re not getting graded on it. The teacher won’t like you less if you’re not an ace flyer right away, or you can’t touch your toes.  Nobody gives a shit whether you can touch your toes except you. 

I’m not saying you shouldn’t reach for your toes.  Reaching and trying is what yoga is all about, but if something doesn’t feel really right to you, just hang back for a bit. Go into child’s pose if you need it without being at all embarrassed if the people around you see you taking a rest. 

Don’t push yourself beyond what your body wants. Your body will make you suffer if you ignore it.  As Nadya always says, make your body your good friend. This should be a friend with whom you are always close, attentive and honest.

This is how I feel when I come out of a yoga class:

My mood is good, cheerful, ready to tackle my schedule, positive, grounded, relaxed.   My neck feels long.  My spine feels straighter.  My joints are juicy.  My lungs feel clean and clear.  My skin is lubricated.  My hands feel stretched.  My feet are relaxed.  My hips are loose.  My shoulders are back and strong.  My arms feel limber.  My legs feel longer.  My gut is fluid and moving just fine.

But my knees, well my knees have been at times a bit achy.  What I do when my knees are bothering me is this:  I pay attention to them.  When my knees are a bit sore during one of those Nadya classes filled with people who can effortlessly balance and fly, I put a blanket under my knees.  I go into child’s pose.  When my knees act up, I listen to them.

Fortunately, my knees aren’t in bad shape.  They aren’t throbbing or bothering me all the time, but if they were, I wouldn’t go to yoga.  I had a period of knee discomfort a few years ago and I went to an orthopedic specialist.  He told me to take it easy for a while.  He gave me some great strengthening exercises to do.  He told me what movements to avoid until I felt better.

He also told me that every extra pound of weight you carry is the equivalent of SIX extra pounds of weight on your knees.  Our poor knees obviously carry most of our body mass when we stand and walk.  Knee surgery is serious business and pain, and if you can avoid it with focused exercise, weight loss and yoga, then why not.

I told the orthopedist that I was a yoga enthusiast and that I really didn’t want to have to stay away from practice for a long time.  He said as soon as I got my knees feeling better, I could do what my body would let me do. 

When you’re young you may think you will be able to keep your body strong forever.  The human animal, however, is not designed to stay at the same level of fitness throughout life.  Things change and inevitably we grow weaker.  We move slower.  By the time we’re out of our 30’s and 40’s, we almost always experience some kind of physical vulnerability.  If we don’t want to suffer, we have to learn to listen to our bodies and believe the wisdom of what we feel. 

In my experience, a great yoga class will help you to learn how to do just that.

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