Monday, April 8, 2013

Consolidation & Evolution

Someone asked me recently why I haven’t written anything on my blog (it’s been 2 months since my last entry).  My answer was - there’s nothing to write about.  I am not travelling, I am hardly practicing and have backed off teaching as a result of my shoulder injury.

But I realise that I have something to write about - I have entered another phase of my yoga journey:

Since I started ashtanga yoga in January 2001, I have generally been moving forward in terms of my asana practice (with a few backslides here and there of course).  My shoulder injury has caused my practice to retreat to a beginner level.  I realise however that there is a very big difference between my practice now and when I first started.  Then, I was struggling through the poses.  I was getting to know my body in terms of what I could do, couldn’t do.  The practice was new and I was trying to figure out how to adapt my body & mind to it.   

Now, I am re-visiting my practice; going through a period of Consolidation.  I may be doing the same asanas as when I started but the key difference is that they are now familiar.  My body is a bit broken but in general, very different from what it was in 2001.  I am now classified by Doctors as ‘hyper-mobile’ which makes me laugh because I was so stiff when I first started.

I recently read an article about how Ashtanga Yoga has evolved since Guruji first started teaching Westerners years ago to how it is being taught in Mysore now with Sharath at the helm.  It focused more on the asana side of the practice.  It got me thinking about how each individual’s personal yoga practice evolves through their life (single to married to having a family; times of stress, injury, getting older etc).  Does the yoga change or take a different form? How does one's attitude towards the practice change?  In my opinion, the yoga should always support and nourish versus demanding what we may not be able to provide at that point in time.  It's common knowledge that Ashtangis are usually Type A personalities :o).  The practice demands discipline but I have learnt that it doesn't equate to rigidity.  The challenge is to look past the outward practice and delve deeper into the inner yoga
Sharath keeps telling us that Yoga is not just physical, it is a spiritual practice and it is for self-transformation.  In his last Mysore conference this season, he apparently said something which resonated with me.
“In life, the terrain keeps changing, it is not smooth all the time.  So, don't get disturbed by these things. You keep your practice. Keep your steadiness in whatever terrain comes into your life. Keep on practicing yoga. Never leave practicing yoga. That is how we balance ourselves in whatever difficult times or happy times.  With happiness you should accept both the terrains, both the happiness as well as sorrow. For that your mind should be steady and still...If you believe in yoga, if you practice yoga, it will never let you go."

I think I am going through my own little evolution, looking back on how I have progressed in the practice and analysing what I have to do moving forward with this injury.  In order to do that, I had to let go of my detachment to my regular practice.  Boy, that is hard because I miss it so much.

I maintained my daily pranayama but started to do less asana and fit in more exercises to strengthen my shoulder.  Then I think I overdid the exercises so I took a week off and did absolutely nothing physical (that felt like a year!).  When I re-started, I took a day off every few days and experimented with different routines every day.  I started to swim to see if this would complement what I am doing.  I wake up every morning with neck ache so I am trying different sleeping positions with different pillows.  I have devised my own stretches (some using a wall, massage ball etc) and tweaked certain asanas to relieve the neck ache.  I am still figuring out my limits to what I can before I feel pain and trying to pinpoint what causes me discomfort.  It is an ongoing process.
So, 12 years after I started my Ashtanga journey, I am going back and trying to look at it with fresh eyes.  It is not easy; I am filled with doubt.  Will I ever be able to practice freely without inhibition and fear of pain? Will I ever be able to do poses in which my shoulder is vulnerable?  I know that there is no use looking back.  This is what my Yoga practice has evolved into.  I can only look forward.  There are so many paths to the same destination … I’d like to think I’m just going offroad for a while.


  1. Denise, I feel really sad when I read about your injury and how it's affected your practice. You were one of my most inspiring teachers and you have come so far in your practice. Like you said, life's ups and downs affect our ability to practise but it doesn't stop a type-A personality from wanting to try. As I'm sure you will some day. I hope your shoulder gets better soon.

    Love & light,

  2. Dear Denise,
    Yes it is very challenging to have your love of the practice affected like this. It forces you to consider what role the practice has in your life and what connection you can make with it even if most asana are inaccessible. And also you have to address your teaching role given these circumstances.
    I subscribe to the following:
    a) nothing is accidental
    b) everything changes
    So if you look at a) and you posited that this event was purposeful, what is it you can see is the purpose? Can you accept that it was a well-designed, intentional act rather than an accident?
    And b) what perspective do you currently have on it? Does it appear to be something you feel will always be there? Do you see the situation changing some day, perhaps resolving? How do you conceptualise it?
    My dear friend I miss you and remember so many days where we practiced together and so many lunches where we laughed and talked and supported each other. (However would I have gotten around Singapore without your directions???)
    I wish you many more fun times and whether or not my words help, I remain your good friend who wishes only the best for you.
    Love Always,
    Viv xxx

  3. Stumbled upon your blog, and it's wonderful to read your life's journey on the path of Yoga. Love the way you write... it's full of positive energy, humour and inspiration. Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I am hopeless at checking the Comments. Thank you Joyce and Viv for your lovely support. Dintoons - your illustrations are really cool; great work! :o)