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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
P.S. What is your yoga story?