by Susan Dawson
There comes a point in everyone’s life where a daily yoga practice or some sort of stretch regime – becomes a necessity. Not a “gee, it would be fun to do the splits” aspiration but more of an “I need to stretch to function pain-free throughout the day.” Case in point, I pulled my neck a few months ago. How did I do this?
No, I wasn’t power lifting or participating in a challenge. I simply turned my head. Just a simple glance at my son, nothing dramatic, and a neck muscle spasm ensued. I had neglected my daily yoga practice and this, compounded by years of carrying my boy and coercing shoes or coats or hats on an unwilling toddler hit me all at once. I’m always close to collapsing. I stretch through a yoga practice that often feels more like a boot camp than a calming image of a yogi on a mountain top. We hold our Warrior poses or the (attempted) splits past my breaking point and then we go back and do a second set. Something that began as an excellent workout has now morphed into a means of self-preservation. I now employ a daily yoga practice for self-preservation, meaning that yoga is a tool to keep my mind and body healthy so that I can continue to safely practice for the rest of my life.
Practicing yoga daily is a change of thinking for me. The edge of one’s yoga practice is a very special place to be because it’s a place of self-discovery and evolution, but it can also be risky. I have transformed my practice and my life. The more I practice, the deeper I dive into my true potential, and my true self. A daily yoga practice empowers us with the spiritual confidence gained from progressing through the asanas and breaking through mental, physical and emotional obstacles. A daily practice cultivates the attitude that through patience and compassion, not brute strength, we can accomplish just about anything on and off our mats.
Often, I have an all or nothing attitude. If I cannot put aside one hour for yoga, why bother doing fifteen minutes? I’m turning 31 in August, and when I look back over the past year, I’m amazed about how much more familiar I am with my edge. I’ve injured myself, and I’ve healed myself. I’ve discovered poses that are not appropriate for my body, so I’ve eliminated them from my practice (mostly poses that involve stretching my neck and shoulders in ways they don’t need).
I’ve gained a surprising amount of strength that allows me to safely go deeper in certain poses, but at the same time protects me from moving past my edge into injury. My goal is that the yoga I practice today will allow me to continue doing yoga for the rest of my life, but there is no guarantee. All I can do is practice and listen to what my body tells me. Time has taught me that each day is different, so three days of fifteen minutes per day is far better than forgoing stretching all together. Some days I wake energetic and ready to tackle the world. Other days, I drag myself out of bed and am hurried to get my boy out the door for daycare.
My daily yoga practice is just as varied. Some days it seems that every pose is effortless while other days I’m looking at the clock after 5 minutes. The important point is to show up – to practice every day. It is the only way change will come.