Last night, I had my first Ashtanga yoga beginner’s class – as an instructor. A bunch of friends showed up to be abused act as Ginny pigs as I showed off the fruits of my instructor-training labors. I will be doing a repeat performance tonight.
The energy from the class remained trapped in my body afterwards and, despite trying essential oils and meditation, I ended up lying awake in bed until the early hours of the morning. Trying to sort through the wealth of information I’ve received from instructors along the years, remembering the amateur point-of-view, while still being consistent and not confusing anybody had put my brain into overdrive.
My own instructor, who kept watch at the back of the studio, told me I had performed better than he had done back in the day. What a relief! Even the pupils promised they would come again. There might be a lot of sore-thighed yogis in my class tonight. The backs of my thighs gave me the most trouble when I first started out – and still do when I’m inconsistent with my practice, as I have been this fall.
I remember the first time I got on a yoga mat like it was yesterday. My fingers were several inches from the floor during forward bends; never mind the push-ups! Lowering my body even an inch in Chaturanga made feel like I was about to have a heart attack. Getting my forehead to touch my knees, was like winning the lottery, and when I got into my first lotus position, I was on top of the world. Significant changes in mobility and strength happened over the course of only a few months, and they gave me such a feeling of genuine (and surprising) joy. I was more aware and in control of my body. Life felt different.
For every step forward I took two steps back, of course, the worst of which was throwing out my lower back. Rehabilitation took over a year, but my back has been as good as new ever since. It’s taken another year to reprogram my brain into believing that my back no longer hurts. From overachievement to letting go and everything in between, hurting my back has been one of the most rewarding lessons I’ve ever had.
Beyond the physical level, yoga practice has had a profound effect on my entire life. I’m not sure I can describe it. It’s been with me in moments of joy, sorrow, and even complete breakdowns. Even when I have been injured and in pain, I’ve always felt a sense of joy, well being, and peace through yoga. The physical relief it provides is transformed into emotional relief. And no matter how difficult the walk to the studio has sometimes been, I’ve never regretted getting on the mat. On the other hand, I’ve also learned that it’s okay not to take that walk, and that I don’t need to explain myself.
Discovering one’s body and learning not to overthink is a never-ending process; a fascinating and rewarding journey. I respect my body more and more every day. This is the only body I have, and I want to take good care of it. I want to be dancing when I’m ninety.
Yoga’s benefits for physical, emotional, and even higher vibrational health are numerous. I am so happy to be on this new path, learning how to best impart my little grains of knowledge.
I truly recommend yoga for everyone, regardless of age or level of fitness.
Photos Dorit Salutskij
Translation Katja Nikula