by Ali Valdez
Starting over in any situation is hard to do, especially when you devote your life to something with passion and focus, you are willing to work yourself to the depths, doing whatever it takes to see those gradual, incremental improvements. People new to yoga walk in and see a more seasoned practitioner in something like peacock feather pose and think, “I want to do that!” They have little understanding or appreciating of the amount of time and effort goes into mastery of that type of asana, unless of course, they are as strong and hearty as a silverback gorilla or preternaturally bendy.
Yoga and or advancement in any ‘field’ takes a lot of dedication: a daily ritual with prioritization, time and clearly defined objectives. But athletic or work that requires your body is different than work in the office. Maybe you have become a subject matter expert in Human Resources or Law, but when you get physically injured, you can still go on billing hourly.
When you are a yoga teacher, injuries could mean time off the clock or being sent out to pasture. So a surgery needed to happen, and for a while, I sat and waited.
I had eight weeks of being on the bench. The hardest thing after the stir craziness of being sedentary is the reality of coming back to the mat and rebuilding my practice. As a teacher this can be even harder mentally and physically than you think
because people look at you, to you, to embody the poses with perfect alignments, elegance in movement and ease. Here are three valuable pointers that I would like to share from my experience this month:
- Patience & Empathy. You are now, for a brief moment, that student new to yoga. The empathy you gain for the beginning student as a teacher starting back into the practice is invaluable. You come to appreciate the tentativeness, the lack of certainty, the self-consciousness of finding these forms with your body anew. This is a crash course in remembering to really break poses down, step by step and reacquaint your body with what it felt like for the first time. Patience with yourself is extended patience with your students.
- Be Fearless. No time like the present to cash in on all the health claims and benefits of yoga. Your body and your practice will come back. It might be different, sure, but adapting to change is always part of the yogi’s equation. One of my beloved yogi friends was told after repetitive use injuries coding endlessly for a high tech juggernaut that he would never be able to use his hands again, let alone practice yoga. Had he taken this to heart, and given up, he would not be in service to his communities in Hawaii and Connecticut now. Instead, he was fearless, and yes his practice changed; it got even better. For me, I was doing stuff no human should be doing right after a surgery of my magnitude, and yet, I was able to recover very well. My “sending love and lighters” I took to heart believing that their healing intentions and prayers would help accelerate my healing. They did.
- Embracing the Now with Gratitude. I cannot tell you how much more present I am in the moment once something was cherished was taken away but now restored. I am on my mat, finally practicing for two hours a day again and thanking God every second I settle in deeper, hold longer, lift up higher. Sensations in my body are like reunions with long lost loves. I am overwhelmed by the splendor of being back in a now stronger, healthier body. Joy is soaring inside my heart. Any lost interest for the practice after working tirelessly has been rekindled with a newfound and gentle sweetness. That is worth a #simplegratitude right there.