Have you had a moment that felt like a real turning point in your practice?
For years I would take leg behind the leg poses as part of my daily practice . They formed an integral part of the system of yoga I was practising and I also had this weird notion that I needed to become proficient at these postures in order to become an 'advanced' yogi. It sounds ridiculous reading it here in black and white but I was caught in the trap of feeling not good enough in my practice and constantly pushing myself harder. If I'd been honest with myself and really listened to the intuition of my body, I'd have accepted that these postures were causing me harm - my hamstrings felt constantly tweaky and I was suffering from low level chronic back pain. One day the inevitable happened - as I took my right leg behind my head, I felt my lower back 'explode' in searing pain. So obsessed was I with these poses that as I lay on my back in agony and panic a thought floated through my mind "maybe I should try the other side"... (WTF??!).
I often think back on this event as a turning point in my relationship to yoga. A move away from formalised 'systems' of yoga to a more intuitive and explorative approach to my practice, one in which I work within controlled ranges of motion rather than 'pulling' my body into positions it wasn't designed to take. Of course it shouldn't have required a serious injury to really come into relationship with my body and treat it with kindness and patience, but I got there in the end.
Yoga is a wonderful practice that can help us to find greater ease and fluidity in our bodies and in our lives - but if we're simply using it to reinforce existing patterns of behaviour or to meet certain arbitrary standards of physical prowess (imposed on us by our own expectations or those of our teachers) then we're missing out on the real transformative potential of the practice.
There's much more to unpick here about how we can sensitively explore our boundaries in practice. I’ll save that for a follow up post, but in the meantime let me know if you've ever had a similar turning point in your own practice...