My Yoga Journey: ramping it up
They say that pride comes before a fall. But what comes afterwards?
Recovering from my second collarbone break meant a good 5 weeks off my mat. (If this is all new information for you, this is part 5 of the series I am calling "My Yoga Journey"... click here to read the first 4 parts before you carry on.)
April 2016. And I was itching to get back to a proper yoga practice. Though a much more cautious and mindful one for sure! I had done the dogs work of those first several months, building a base level of strength and flexibility. I had experienced a massive set back that forced me to think about the non-physical side of yoga and why the whole practice had become so important to me. And I was ready to ramp things up.
I'll ruin any modicum of suspense here by telling you that this decision was one of the most pivotal in my yoga story. One of the questions/comments I get most often, both on Instagram and in real life, is how I progressed so quickly. I'm still not sure my progress is that quick, but still, I hear the question a lot. And the answer is this...
I hope not! I hope you take this as a message that it isn't magic, or a gift you were born with, or having to spend hours and hours a day on your mat, or travelling to India, or finding a guru. Sure, all those things will probably get you there too (and probably even quicker!) but you can be a normal person, doing a busy job, leading a full life and still come on leaps and bounds in your personal experience of yoga.
But lets get to some specifics. That's what you guys are here for right?! What did consistency actually mean for me?
Before my accident, I had been getting to 1-3 yoga classes a week depending on what else was going on in life. But the 3 class weeks were much rarer than the 1 class weeks. So I made an effort to change that. Which was easier said than done lets be honest! There is so much power in building yourself a really strong foundation. Technique, learning new poses safely, trying things outside of your comfort zone: these are the things that learning from a good teacher will give you. I know not every one can get to classes at all, forget about very frequent classes, but if you can, do! So 1-3 class weeks became 2-5 class weeks. At best, this meant one 45min and 60min vinyasa class, two 60min and one 90min Iyengar class.
And the more I went to classes, the more I felt like I was ready to start practicing by myself. To begin with, this was all in an Iyengar style: so long, static holds. Doing the right side of trikonasana for 1 minute, then the left side. Then moving to warrior 2. And keeping on like that. But soon, I felt the pull of vinyasa. Of flowing movement and synced breath. I wanted music, and to be able to have an entirely different practice depending on what my body and my mood and my mind were calling for.
You can read a whole post about how I started a self-practice and to flow by myself, and my tips for starting one yourself here.
This development was so significant for me for two reasons. Firstly, it meant I started to appreciate the internal work of a yoga practice. When there is no one calling out cues to you, when all you have is your own heartbeat as a guide, the concept of movement as meditation becomes a lot more real. But for the purpose of this post, the second reason is really the humdinger. I learned that little and often led to more change than big, one-off efforts...
5 Minutes is Enough
This is a phrase that gets banded around social media a lot. And it used to drive me potty. What can anyone possible achieve in 5 minutes?! Well, try holding downward dog for 5 minutes, or Warrior 2 and tell me you aren't counting every single one of those 300 seconds! Right?!
Though the nub of this argument doesn't lie in those singular 5 minutes. It's about the 5 minutes yesterday, and the ones today, and the ones tomorrow. It's the accumulation of minutes upon minutes and hours into hours.
If you take something and increase it by 1% a day for a year, it will be 37 times bigger/better/more at the end of that period. 37 times! If you take that same thing and decrease it by 1% for a year, it will be 0.03% at the end.
0.03% vs. 37
That. Is. Huge.
I have no way to quantify what a 1% better downward dog looks like. Or what a 1% stronger crow pose feels like. But the above simple maths tells you that if you keep travelling forward, 1% a day, in a year you will have traveled a vast distance.
And it's a lot easier to clock up that 1% a day at home on your own mat, than relying on classes.
So between my classes and my self-practice, I made myself a little pledge to try to do something on my mat more days in a week than I didn't. It wasn't always easy. And I didn't always crack it. And there were more 5 minute days than 90 minute ones for sure. But the direction of travel was forwards. Not always in every pose I was practicing (I'm looking at you half moon!!), but in the consistency. And it began to show really quickly.
Next up... thinking about teacher training...
(P.s. Interested in how much time I spend practicing physical asana these days? Check out the series of "My Week in Yoga" posts here)