Taking a Step Back From Yoga

So all these years of practicing yoga, talking about yoga, yoga, yoga, yoga and all of a sudden I’ve stopped talking about it.  It’s not quite all of a sudden but a gradual move towards not going as much anymore, triggered by the pain in my neck and shoulder.

After several tests and time outs, I refused to believe it but my suspicions that going to yoga was causing my neck and shoulder to hurt more instead of heal, were finally confirmed.

We went to New York and I got to experience a full week without yoga at all and for the first time in months I experienced  NO PAIN.  We ate junk food, meat, wheat – all the things that I was sure were the reasons for any pain and stiffness, I was up early, slept late, jetlagged, walking for miles in the freezing cold for up to 8 hours a day, my skin was dry and flaky from the dryness in the air, people were coughing all around me but I didn’t get sick and I had no physical pain in my neck or shoulders, even with carrying around my backpack.  My legs ached from all the walking but no pain in my neck or shoulders.

Just to clarify, we weren’t in NYC for a week, only a few days but because it was short notice, I didn’t go to yoga for a few days before, in preparation and then I didn’t go when we got back because I had to catch up on everything which meant approx. 10 days of no yoga.

So when I finally decided to go back to yoga, bam… the neck and shoulder were hurting again.  Not as much as when this first started but enough for me to take notice and it would get worse the more I went.

It’s easy to say it’s yoga in general but it’s not technically “yoga”.  There is something specifically that I’m not doing properly, where my technique is incorrect, that is causing this pain OR I’m doing it so much that I haven’t given my body enough time to recover and heal itself before the next time I strain it which then aggravates it and makes it worse.

The problem is, if it’s technique, nobody has been able to point it out to me and I haven’t worked out yet, what exactly I’m not doing properly.  If it’s not enough time to recover then I’m either pushing too hard when in class or I don’t have the nutrients I need to heal quickly or my body just takes time and needs the time off and I just haven’t been listening.

So, as with any animal reaction to pain, I am avoiding it.  The purpose of going to class and practicing yoga was to keep me pain free.  Why would I go if it’s doing the opposite?

I thought I’d miss yoga or at least get disappointed that I wasn’t going as much or not improving anymore but surprisingly I didn’t and that’s probably because there are a lot of benefits for not going.  Like for example:

  1. I don’t feel shoulder or neck pain anymore.
  2. I don’t have to do so much laundry anymore.
  3. That means that I save a LOT of water and I actually feel good about that.
  4. I also save a LOT of time and can allocate that time to accomplishing other things (Imagine what you could do with an extra 15-20 hours a week!!).
  5. We get to eat dinner much earlier instead of at 11pm/midnight which is when we normally finish cooking after coming home from a yoga class in the evening.
  6. We have time to watch a movie after dinner.
  7. I’m no longer rushing around like a lunatic to get to class or get things frantically done before I have to get to class (a different form of being stress free).
  8. You don’t have to listen to me talk about it all the time!!
  9. More importantly, I take it easy in class now and have learned to be patient with and be kind to my body – a different and necessary stage in my yoga journey.

27th Feb 2016 marked 4 years since we started practicing Bikram Yoga regularly and at this point, I’m practicing about as regularly as when I first started.  Say, 1-3 times per week.

I guess you can say, it took me 4 years to get my body to a point where it doesn’t feel it needs the yoga all the time to feel healthy and happy.

In truth and after reflection, it’s my mind that doesn’t need the yoga as much anymore.  Having gone through some serious emotional turmoil over the years, yoga has definitely kept me from being locked up in an asylum (just).  It’s not a joke, I am related to people who have been locked up in mental asylums so it’s in my genes to be crazy.  There is a tipping point and I have gone there, balancing so precariously there so I know what that feels like.  It’s amazing but there is a boundary and you can feel it – all it takes is just a tiny shove and I would have gone over and been a certified nutcase.  I was holding on for dear life  on that precipice, so close to just giving up on sanity and I know for sure that yoga helped me stay balanced there, never tipping over, until the edge became a ledge and then a platform to lead me back to solid ground again.  Terra firma.

God bless Tony, he really took his vows to heart.  In mental sickness and in mental health ’til death do us part.

I realised that going to yoga, concentrating on health, focussing on diets were all forms of me trying to gain some form of control because I felt I didn’t and couldn’t have any control over so many other things in my life.  Now the need for control has lessened, the need to go hardcore into health and yoga has lessened with it.  The physical pains were most likely manifestations of all the stuck emotions I just couldn’t deal with but at least now, I’ve got the time and mental stability to start dealing with them.

Yes, I do feel a lot stiffer these days but I also don’t feel as much pain and I have a lot more time to focus on other things in my life.  Yes, yoga still has a place in my life so I will continue to go for a stretch but I doubt I’ll be as full on anymore.  Not just yet anyway.  Maintenance and balance is the focus at the moment.  I’ve got a life time of improvement coming so why be impatient?

Right now, it’s  time I start focussing on empowering all the parts of my life that I’ve been neglecting.  I think I’ve got the physical and relationship well-being pretty sorted.  So maintaining those is key while I direct my focus onto improving other areas of my life.   Next on my list to tackle is financial well-being.  Watch this space 🙂

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