Geo: 8.73, 76.72When we start to develop...unconditional acceptance of ourselves, then we're really taking care of ourselves in a way that pays off. We feel more at home with our own bodies and minds and more at home in the world. As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people." Pema Chodron
Everyone looks so vibrant and healthy here in Varkala. There are masses of yoga-body women of all ages with glowing faces, tight, lithe bodies, long hair pulled up into loose ponytails. Many wear snug-fitting LuluLemon-like yoga clothes covered with the flowy cotton Indian clothing being sold at every little shop along the cliff edge here.
I'm having a yoga crisis. How can something that is so good feel so hard and unsatisfying to me? My belly fat prevents the free flow of my breath in many of the poses. I feel like I am suffocating as I cannot get any air in when my belly compresses, even though I have Shiva, my teacher, encouraging me to "bareeeeaaaathe deeeeeeply". My knees hurt too much to do 90%!o(MISSING)f the movements the way he is instructing me to do them and, as I gathered before
I came here, it is not the style of instruction to offer variations, props or adjustments. Thankfully, I have had been to enough yoga classes at home to know how to modify poses.
And, because I have been injured for the last 18 months (although I could have maintained better core and upper body fitness, I didn't. I attended Pilates and restorative yoga classes irregularly), I am not strong enough to do some of the poses such as the shoulder stand and plough or crow. I have never - even at my fittest - been able to do double leg raises as they hurt my back yet I tried them anyway in the heat of the moment and guess what? They hurt my back.
I am trying not to allow my mind to limit me, to be 'non-compliant', to go at a pace that works for me; it is very discouraging. I can't help feeling like a yoga-failure (judgments!). I drag myself the kilometre back to our room after class, politely saying "no thank you" to every vendor who calls me into their shop. Bagged, over-heated and not exactly connected spiritually, I feel like I want to go to
class less and less with each proceeding class.
How can I accept this one and only precious body of mine as it is among all these other bodies? I know it is my ego that speaks to the body comparisons and I can't help myself from making them - a long-time habit of mine. I know that the breath work of this yoga is so good for me and that my lungs and body are loving all this new-found oxygen. I know I am making up stories about what is going on for me and I don't have to believe those stories.
How can I feel ease and peace in something that feels nothing like either of them? Where are all the overweight, arthritic people of the world because they certainly aren't here doing yoga?! And where are the Indian women who look more like me with soft curves and round bodies? I haven't seen one in class.
Maybe my Pitta dosha gets too fiery, my Vata out of balance from struggling breath and/or my Kapha wants gentler movement. I take a deep breath, relax my shoulders, listen to Pema Chodron's wise words at the beginning
of this blog and find peaceful ease within. Maybe yoga is simply not a good fit for me or maybe I need to do my own gentle practice.
I think I'll go swimming.
To see more of Jim's photos and in higher resolution, visit his Flickr site.
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