My Yoga Story

I think now is a good time to tell you my yoga story.

My yoga story doesn’t have a “happy ending”,  but I like to think I learned some valuable lessons about the limits of my body and the importance of staying faithful to myself.

A few years ago I was an aspiring yoga student. I took classes, practiced at home, bought yoga props and purchased more than my share of yoga books and dvds. I was even about to start studying the yoga sutras of Patanjali. 🙂

Now, more than two years have gone by without me doing a single asana.

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One of the reasons I quit yoga is that my body type wasn’t compatible with my chosen yoga style. Or to put it a little differently: my mind was willing but my body was not!

I decided to try yoga because I was curious. Everyone and their cousin was talking about Ashtanga yoga, so I signed up for a beginner class offered by my University. Ashtanga yoga was – and probably still is – the most popular style of yoga in Finland. (For those that haven’t done yoga, Ashataga is a very athletic and demanding style of yoga).

I’m a naturally flexible person, but that was the only trait I had going for me in regard with Ashtanga yoga. I don’t have the muscular strength or long limbs that would be ideal for Ashtanga. Also, as you may recall, at that time I still suffered from chronic tension headaches and constant pains in my upper body.

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Nevertheless, my yoga journey started well.

I liked my first teacher and the classes were easy – I had no difficulty following them. I got more flexible and my lack of upper body strength was no big problem. Months went by and I decided it was time to deepen my relationship with yoga. I signed up for a weekend intensive course for beginners in April in 2008.

That’s where my yoga problems began.

The new teacher was a thirty-something guy who had studied with the Guru in India. He was a die-hard yogi who taught Ashtanga yoga in a very orthodox way, which meant he  allowed only a very limited set of beginner modifications.

That didn’t prevent me from enjoying yoga and the atmosphere of the class, but couldn’t help noticing I wasn’t in a shape for my teacher’s classes. Usually when I finished the sun salutations, sweat was dripping from my face and upper body and I was so exhausted I was barely able to stand on one leg for the standing asanas.

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Nevertheless, I got very flexible in a short period of time and often felt like I was walking on clouds. But after 6 weeks of practicing Ashtanga yoga three times a week, I noticed everything wasn’t quite right. I was very tired, had aches and pains all over my body and I had a hard time dragging myself to classes. I also developed stubborn muscle strains in my upper hamstrings that lasted long after I stopped practicing yoga.

Frankly, I felt like sh*t and a failure, even though part of me was reasonable enough to understand that it was just a matter of Ashtanga yoga being too hard for my body.

Only later when I happened to read an article about overtraining syndrome I realized what had happened: six weeks of Ashtanga yoga had been enough for me to develop an overtraining syndrome. Because Ashtanga yoga effectively heats the body and a flood of endorphins coursed my veins when I practiced, I didn’t realize what was happening before it was too late.

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Of course I didn’t give up on yoga then and there. I tried Iyengar yoga, but didn’t like it either. The classes were much easier but they left my body (and heart!) cold and after the classes I suffered from headaches that lasted for a week or two.

I eventually did find a style of yoga that worked for me. It was a dynamic (and very eclectic) style of hatha yoga taught by Kylli Kukk. But then it was already too late for yoga: I had already discovered the Feldenkrais Method and lost my heart!

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Like I mentioned in the beginning, I learned to respect the limitations of my own body.

Another important lesson from my yoga journey was that my mission is to take care of myself – no ancient rule system or training program is more important than my well-being.

Best Wishes,

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P.S. What is your yoga story?

Comments

  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! I was actually going to ask you about what happened with you and yoga. Ashtanga yoga is probably one of the hardest styles of yoga. It is easy to understand how you over-trained doing so much with so little time for your body to adjust.

    I personally went to Iyengar yoga. But first–before taking my first yoga class–I spent 4 months working on some of the basic poses with my oldest daughter and gym buddy. I had a *very* slow start in yoga–which probably would have helped you too.

    I’m going to be very honest here: I really don’t like yoga class that much. However, I went to yoga class to learn how to do poses properly in the way that increases flexibility the most. I learned there, but then I went to the gym myself and did yoga by myself, which I find extremely fun.

    I hope that you try yoga again–but a more basic class that is physically less stressful and more fun.

    I am jealous that you are naturally flexible!!!!!

    🙂 Marion

    • Satu says:

      Ugh, I should’ve proof-read my post before publishing it. I just noticed about 10 spelling and other errors…

      I do miss yoga and often think about starting it again. Now I would probably do it by myself too. The only thing that prevents me is that it’s difficult to find time for everything I want to do: my other fitness aspirations, Feldenkrais, blogging and reading about fitness related stuff!

      I am jealous of your strength, Marion!! I would trade my flexibility for your strength any day. 🙂

      • Marion says:

        Hi Satu! I’m trying to problem-solve here. Different kinds of fitness compliment each other in magic ways. You could alternate different kinds of workouts like I do. I do yoga only 2 times per week.

        Also, you have a little more time in each of your days because you don’t have a slobby family like I do to take care of. I just tidied and vacuumed my teenage daughter’s room, which took about 20 minutes. I also dropped her off at school this morning, which took 35 extra minutes of my life. That is almost an hour that I spent just on her. My husband is really a messy person. I honestly could walk behind him all day and find stuff to tidy up. So, maybe, when I’m cleaning up after them (emphasis on “Maid” Marion married to Robin Hood here), on the other side of the earth, you can find enough time for your things too. <<Just ideas–feel free to disregard if you wish. 😀

        🙂 Marion

        • Satu says:

          You’re probably right, Marion!

          I happen to be a very messy person myself, but I don’t use much time for cleaning my own messes. I means I should have plenty of time for yoga, especially if I don’t mind doing yoga along with some dust bunnies. 🙂

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