Fitness Magazine

My On Again, Off Again Yoga Practice

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Gwenn Marie

My On Again, Off Again Yoga Practice

Clearing Mist by Melina Meza

For the past five years, I’ve maintained a fairly consistent yoga practice, including a demanding five-week teacher certification course in India, where we sometimes practiced five hours a day. But this past year, it’s been frustratingly difficult to do so. A complicated cross-country relocation from California to Maryland required two moves and wreaked havoc with my energy and practice schedule. Then a nasty fall resulted in shoulder and knee injuries that took nearly four months of painful recuperation—and no yoga practice (except, thankfully, for pranayama).

Off the mat for such a long time, I was cranky and achy and convinced my body was falling apart for good. When I finally was able to get back on the mat, I experienced a dispiriting and humbling “starting all over again” relationship with my practice. Everything was difficult and hurt. After years of practice, I felt like an absolute beginner again. Then after a month of regular sessions, just as I was starting to feel strong and confident again, I was felled by a bad cold that left me unable to practice for another month. Now, after a few weeks of painful re-entry, I’m seeing glimmers of hope again. Familiar strength and flexibility are returning, and my body is easing back into the benefits of a regular practice. But cataract surgeries in both eyes loom in the next month, and once again, I’ll be off the mat for a few weeks. It’s tempting to allow myself to abandon practice until that’s behind me, but I know better than to succumb to those thoughts, even knowing what’s in store when I approach the mat again—a sense of dread.By now, I’m all too accustomed to that sinking feeling of fear and defeat when attempting even one round of Sun Salutations feels beyond my capacity. When the tiniest progress feels painfully slow and frustrating. When I’ve lost the strength to even attempt arm balance poses. When getting back to practice “the way it was” feels impossible. So what’s behind that fear and dread? For me, it’s experiencing the sense of loss I feel every time I can’t do a pose “like I used to.” Grieving my younger self, when Handstands and full Wheels and Crow were poses I could seemingly “float” into—but no more. There a strong sadness about losing youthful abilities and all that portends. I’m working to accept what is and celebrate what I still can do, which is plenty. I’m working to enjoy my practice again, even though I judge it to be diminished. Perhaps it’s past time to accept that occasionally being off the mat is what’s happening now, and that wanting my practice to always be “the way it was” is not the most supportive aspiration as I age. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the idea that any time on the mat is good—even, and especially, when I fear it the most.I remind myself that this is the time to practice my relationship to the niyama of santosha, or contentment in the present moment in any circumstance. For me, that requires letting of what was to take joy in what is. And although it’s not easy, I’m learning that this is the secret of aging with grace, on and off the mat.“A deeper happiness is gained when the practitioner is content.” —The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II.42

My On Again, Off Again Yoga Practice
Gwenn Marie, RYT-200 is an Alpha Boomer of 70, who has practiced yoga for more than 20 years. In 2013, at 67, she studied at the Arhanta Yoga Ashram in Khajuraho, India. She taught introductory workshops and classic Hatha yoga to seniors in Borrego Springs, California, and recently relocated to Annapolis, Maryland, where she is seeking her next opportunity to teach.

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