I don't often share my practice experience or 'yoga story' - largely because practice is a very intimate and sacred space, which can become tainted and muddied with public exposure and sharing - but also because I don't feel it would be that interesting to anyone.
Maybe I’m out of touch…
Anyway, as some of you know my personal practice has been adaptive for the best part of 6-7 years. For those of you lucky enough to have been gifted a long-term injury you will understand that this journey, although challenging, is one that completely changes you.
Patience was never my strong suit, and I was clearly never going to learn to let go of my control issues without a major intervention, and so it proved.
My identity as an Ashtanga Vinyasa practitioner and teacher had been obliterated by my inability to create the required shapes that ensure membership of that exclusive club. Its not an exaggeration to say that my practice had brought me to my knees and forced me to face what was obviously impossible to access when gliding through multiple series of complex asanas. In short I have had to give up the series and practice ‘yoga’ rather than asana for over half a decade.
My attitude to practice, life and myself shifted dramatically though 7 years of not being able to practice any pose involving full closure of the knees - particularly when combined with external rotation and forward bending.
Looking back I used to be deeply attached to practice and the poses that formed the structure of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It turns out that to be liberated from my self-created pose-centric yoga identity, I had to give away the very thing I thought was liberating me - practice.
Christmas 2014, after much deliberation, and after swallowing my prideful stubbornness, I had double knee surgery.
Surrender. Deep surrender.
You may be wondering if there a happy ending to this story?
Well, after having given away my practice it came back. It came back today. Janu Sirsasana C, the hip opening graduation pose, and an impossibility during my period of knee troubles, paid me a visit for the first time since 2008.
Ah, my long lost friend. How have you been?
You might think I’d be jumping up and down and celebrating, I think 3 or 4 years ago I would have been, but the necessity for softness and personal surrender has laid a deep foundation of non-attachment. In fact its very intereseting that the significance of this breakthrough only registered with me long after the pose had dissolved into residue (as I left the studio), not as you might expect during practice.
So there it is. After 7 years of striving, constant pain and deep frustration at not being able to ‘do’ what an Ashtanga teacher ‘should’ be able to do the mandala (circle) is complete.
What ultimately transpires is that 15 years after stepping onto the yoga path, a path that ultimately injured my body, I am now revisiting where I started and experiencing it with fresh clear eyes.
In the words of T. S. Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”
Be warned Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioners and teachers, Yoga, it turns out, grows restless of being an ornament that merely adorns the vain alter of your own self-image.
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