Yesterday I went to ropes yoga class with my friend Janet. I’ve blogged about ropes yoga in the past: Asanas on the Ropes: Trying out Kurunta Yoga. It’s a lot of fun, as you use two sets of ropes to sort of truss yourself up in service of shifting weight and focusing on alignment and body awareness. And you can also hang upside-down in midair, which is fun.
It’s been a long time since I was last at ropes class– almost a year. Last time I went, I felt weak and uncoordinated and unyogi-ish. This past year was a hard one for me health and fitness-wise (maybe everything-wise). I was overworked and menopausal (still am) and sleep-disordered and unfocused and fearful about how the previous problems would affect my fitness and general well-being. Blech!
However, this summer has been one of rest, recovery, fun with friends and family, and happy movement. Yay! A crucial part of the happy movement for me has been the gradual addition of yoga to my almost-daily regimen. 6 out of 7 days a week I do some (10–20 mins) morning yoga and (usually) evening yoga at home, using my favorite yoga youtube videos. FYI, Bad Yogi is a favorite (I go with the free videos), along with Yoga with Kassandra and Yoga with Adriene. Adriene has a nice dog who makes appearances in many of the videos. I also love Jessamyn Stanley’s yoga videos (she has great demos with music soundtracks, too).
Yes, I still take classes at Artemis, my local yoga studio, but: 1) I need more yoga in my life; and 2) I often need it at times when there aren’t classes; and 3) I can’t always get myself out the door to class, even though it is a 10-minute walk away. Truth.
Now, back to the present and the ropes class. This class felt different to me in a big and important way. I used to blame my size or general physical shape or age or something when I couldn’t do some pose. Here’s one I just can’t do– face-up plank on the wall (also called sunny-side up; not sure how to say that in Sanskrit):
See? All these other people can do this, but I just can’t. And I finally figured out why– my left shoulder (with a partial rotator cuff tear) won’t let me. It’s not strong enough. The rest of me is– I could feel that when I tried it. The rest of my body was all ready to go, but the shoulder said no. So I sat that one out.
So what’s the big deal about this? Yoga is known for having poses that one person may find effortless and another find impossible. I actually like that about it– it reminds me of the tremendous variation among bodies; together as a group, we humans have an enormous repertoire of movements. Yes, I know, no flying yet. But still. I think we’re pretty cool.
My problem has been that, in the past year in yoga class (or on the bike, etc.), I totally forgot about that wondrous variety thing I was just rhapsodizing about. All I focused on was how deficient my own body was– weak in this way, slow in that way, too big for this, not flexible enough for that. Blech again.
It took a full summer of steady activity for me to get to a mindset where I could notice and take in feedback from my body parts about what was happening during physical movements. My big breakthrough moment was at this ropes class, where I noticed all sorts of things about my body:
- My left shoulder is weak (because of rotator cuff injury); it needs some rehab exercises;
- My feet are a lot stronger and not crampy at all when I stand on one foot;
- My left side continues to be more flexible than my right side;
- I have more core strength since last year– I could pull myself up with the ropes while hanging upside down like it was nothing! Yahoo!
- Both of my shoulders (had surgery on right one for rotator cuff tear 9 years ago) are in need of lots of attention to keep them flexible and make them stronger;
- Whatever modification gear I need (blocks, strap, bolster, etc.) are there for the taking and make doing yoga possible, not wimpier and less good.
Go me! Go yoga!
Now, to the title question: is it possible to take this body acceptance and body feedback mindset and apply it to other activities, like cycling? I love cycling, but get in my head very often and blame myself for what I see as sub-par performance. I blame myself in myriad ways. And I’m having a moment where I can see that it’s neither exactly accurate nor remotely helpful.
There are some cycling activities that my body could never do, like really steep extended climbing.
There are some cycling activities that my body these days can’t do, like racing.
There are some cycling activities that my body needs some help in being able to do, like riding longer distances for multiple days at a time.
There are some cycling activities that my body enjoys doing (when my mind will leave it alone)– riding with friends, going on 30-something mile rides, tooling around town, and participating in fun bike events.
Next weekend I’m headed out to Northampton, MA for their annual Bike Fest and Tour of the Valley. I’m doing the 25-mile ride with some friends and will get some other miles in as well. It should be fun. I’m taking my yoga mindset with me as I get on the saddle. Will report back next week.
Readers, have you had a shift in awareness from say, judgment to more neutral body awareness in your activities? Are you feeling stuck in the judgment mode? I’d love to hear from you.