So far, my visit to St. Louis has been a wonderful vacation. I’m enjoying such luxuries as supermarkets, hot baths, rinsing with tap water when I brush my teeth, flushing toilet paper, and the incredibly American invention of free coffee refills.
Every day is filled with ethnic restaurants and time with friends, and I’m loving it. But I’m also loving my time alone. And the most healing moments are happening on my yoga mat.
I’ve hauled this mat all over South America but only done yoga for pain management once or twice. My legs are strong from hours of hiking and walking the hills of Cusco, but my muscles are wildly imbalanced, and I’m stiff as a board. As soon as I stepped onto the mat I discovered that some of my joints and fascia are harder than concrete, some of my muscles have shortened, I have a whole collection of soft tissue injuries I wasn’t fully aware of, and some of my body parts are as weak as a newborn kitten’s.
I’m less than a beginner on my mat. Yet it feels wonderful to be there. It feels good to take my joints and muscles through their tiny range of motion, even if it’s frustrating. It feels wonderful to center myself, to be in the moment, in my body, and nowhere else. My shoulders, hamstrings and spine crackle and whimper, but I love feeling my body opening and energy beginning to flow through the blockages.
Poses that were fun for me a year ago are simply impossible right now. I can only practice for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. But that’s OK for now.
I would never berate a student for not being able to move fully in a pose, or for taking time off from their practice. I would reassure them that their strength and flexibility will return faster than they expect. I would tell them that what’s important is that they’re taking care of themselves now.
I am speaking to myself in the same compassionate, patient voice that would be natural to use with anyone else, and that is the most healing part of the practice. I honestly don’t know whether it’s the giving or the receiving of this kindness that feels so sweet. Probably both.
If you’ve been away from your mat for a while, I urge you to give self-acceptance a try.