Thursday, August 12, 2010

Asana and I: A love story

Being sick recently with dengue fever has meant that for the last month my asana practice has been completely modified. Stepping to my mat on Day 10 after getting the fever (2 days after leaving bed for the first time!) I couldn't believe how weakened my body was from the illness. So it has been short, gentle practices for me, focusing on stretching out the muscles that were cramped up by the fever. In addition, mornings have been tough now that I'm back at work, so I have been putting in play my 10-minute sequences!

Being unable to do asana has made me reflect on the dominance that it plays in my yogic life, and how that has changed over the years. See, I have gone through times when asana has dominated my waking moments, and not necessarily in a healthy way. I have gone through times when I didn't practice at all, preferring other forms of physical exercise instead. And I have gone through times like now, when I can enjoy my asana practice in balance with the other elements of my life.

If I could map out some stereotypical stages of relationship to yoga-asana, it might look like this:

  1. Flirtation: You first meet, and you feel a spark. For a while, you keep your distance – doing a bit of reconnaissance, and research. You attend a few classes, the spark nurtures a flame and your attraction grows...
  2. Dating and Romance: Before you know it, you are dating. In fact, you are more than dating – you can't get enough! Your friends notice a change in you... You are giddy and all you can talk about is yoga this, and yoga that, and how great yoga is and how much you looooove yoga...
  3. Obsession/compulsion: And sure enough, it's not long until you barely even see said friends anymore, because all you ever do is yoga! You eat, breathe and sleep yoga, you check all the yoga books out of the library, you spend hours locked in your room trying impossible yoga poses. Your wobbly knee in Warrior II can reduce you to tears, and the last time you had to take child's pose you held it against yourself for a week. At the same time, you can feel deep shifts happening within, in places you'd rather not go, in realms that are dark and scary...
  4. The breakup: And so, you decide you need to take a break. After all, haven't you always wanted to take up long-distance running? Why not start now! At first you enjoy the free time. You reconnect with your friends and have a few drinks and laugh about how you are so over that yoga thing. But after a while, you start to miss it. You see someone on the street with a yoga mat, and your heart leaps while your tummy lurches.
  5. The make-up: And so eventually you steel yourself, you swallow your pride, and you humbly go back and offer yourself up to the practice. It feels so right, it feels so good! And here, you may take one of two roads... Maybe you will head straight back to Step 3 and repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5 over and over again... But just maybe you will pass go and progress to...
  6. Going steady: Yep, you and yoga are here to stay, and you have all the characteristics of a good relationship. Yoga complements you without dominating your life. You recognize that you will have good days and bad days, and you don't judge the relationship based on that. You acknowledge that you need to have other hobbies and social time for the other relationships in your life. Instead of brining out the worst in you, yoga brings out your best side, and opens up a place for you to grow and confront your fears. You don't feel judged, criticized or insecure – you feel just fine where you are, thanks, and you are enjoying the journey.

And so, folks, I'm happy to report that I am feeling very Stage 6ish at the moment! I am slowly building back my strength and do look forward to getting back to my former level. But I also feel more balanced about my asana practice than I have been in a while. I am happy with where I am and the progress I have made till now. I am content with my pre-illness 45-50 minute morning practices before work, and not beating myself up for not doing Primary (Ashtanga series) 6 days a week. If I need extra sleep and my morning practice is only 10 minutes, well, I am happy with that, too.

What about you folks? Does any of this sound familiar? What has your relationship to asana been like?


  1. very good post
    i did stop practise for almost 10 days where i could save only sun salutations after a full month in india
    it was so hard to break!!! i really miss it, i am back to my practise, not finish the going back in the middle of the road but so happy to be on the yoga road again

  2. God that is all sooo true! I've been through the break up/make up thing twice. Once during my teacher training when I was just so oversaturated by yoga I stopped practicing (not for very long though!) and then last year when I moved and broke up with teaching, enjoyed the free time for about 3 months and then just missed it too much to not do it.

  3. Ah, yes... the old run around the block. Yoga and I had a rocky start, but things have been, dare I say, pretty fantastic since we came to accept and love one another for what we are. ;)

  4. Yes, absolutely familiar. Love the list! While going steady is nice, I fondly remember the obsession stage ;)

  5. I'm so sorry that you are unwell! Hope you feel better soon. For, I think I went straight from stage one (I was there for a long time) to stage six... :)

  6. This is a wonderful post. I would love it if you could contribute an article for my website -

    Also, would you like to do a link exchange?
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  7. It's so great to hear that we all have solid relationships with our Yoga... even though we have come over some bumps! :)