Yoga Story Meme – NaYoPracMo

Kristi, the admirable coordinator of NaYoPracMo, recently posted this Yoga Story Meme for the participants in this month’s NaYoPracMo challenge. I thought it a really good way to let others know my history with yoga and it is also a good pause for reflection on where I’ve been so far in my quest for a yoga life.

Might I also add here that Kristi, upon reading a comment I had posted about my struggles with scoliosis and the surgery that I had for it, told me about Julie, another NaYoPracMo participant who also has scoliosis and who has also had a spinal fusion. I must admit that I’ve never been in contact with anyone who has scoliosis, has had the surgery and practices yoga now as a way to combat what comes with all of that. So, I’m so happy to be in touch with Julie now and I feel like we will share a lot in our struggles with such similar situations. (She also has a very beautiful blog that chronicles her yoga practices. It is a favorite of mine!)

Now… onto the Meme.

1. The start. What brought you to yoga?
I didn’t start yoga until a good long while after my back surgery. I had the surgery in 1994 and didn’t start yoga until 1998. I had done the exercises that were recommended after the surgery and, when done consistently, they helped. One day while I was in Oxford, attending college at Ole Miss, I realized that the exercises were nothing more than yoga moves. I hadn’t known much about yoga before that so I’m sure I came to that conclusion from a magazine article or something of that nature. Soon after that, I heard that a spa on the Square was starting small yoga classes. I went one day and was hooked. My teacher was quite formidable and not very approachable at all but, even so, she was really really inspirational. She knew of my situation, my back problems and, in her own way, let me know that I could sit out any pose that I needed to or didn’t feel comfortable doing. Right at first, that was a good many of them! But, the ones I could do made all the difference in the world!

2. First class. Describe your first class(es) or practice and your reaction to it.
I guess I kind of answered this above. I don’t remember the specifics of my first class but I very vividly remember the teacher and the overwhelming intimidation yet inspiration I felt from here. The room was kind of dark, very small, and had mirrors all around it. There were only about five people in the class but she pushed us all hard. I only did what I knew would not hurt me and still do that today. I know better now what I can and can’t do and I stick with that. Yoga is, after all, largely about listening to your body.

3. The addiction. How/why did you get hooked?
I liked how it made my back feel, how limber and good I felt after a class, how clear my head felt, the sense of accomplishment I felt from doing such a good thing for myself. All of that leads to quite an addiction, I’d say. However, addiction is like scissors and willpower is like rock. Rock always beats scissors, I’m sad to say.

4. The history. Describe the development of your practice and history with teachers since then.
I’ve had a rocky road (see above – pun intended) with yoga, I think. I will practice yoga with great resolve for bits of time and then I will fall out of it and feel horrible about that. Sometimes I have a place to practice and sometimes I don’t (like now). This makes it hard to really advance much with my practice. For the majority of my yoga practice, I’ve practiced alone at home with DVDs. I was practicing two hours each day for awhile about two years ago and even planning to attend a yoga teacher training in California. That never happened. Most of the reason for this is a sheer lack of willpower. I don’t have it. I don’t have any of that or self-discipline, which makes it hard to practice yoga or stick with any other thing in my life. I’ve gone over this before.

As for teachers, my favorite was by far my most recent teacher in Oxford, Mississippi. I took at the Baptist Healthplex under the very kind instruction and encouragement of Stevi. She could do some yoga and was so inspiring to watch! Oh to be as good as she! But, even besides the fine example she set, she was so kind and accomodating and concerned and tried to really understand her students and where they were coming from, where they had been. The classes were always VERY full, especially for a small town of Oxford’s size. We would have anywhere from 20 to 50 people in each class. But, even with a class of that size, Stevi would still remember each person’s limitations and strengths. With my back, she would make a point to say “Karen Beth, you might want to not do this one…” whenever we did backbends, which I cannot do. My absolute FAVORITE thing about the class though was that we practiced by candlelight. It was so relaxing and lent such a reflective and calming ambience to the room. Even if the practice got rigorous at times, there was still such a feeling of calm because of the warm glow.

I miss that class.

5. The future. What are your practice goals for the future?
As always, I hope to really establish a daily practice, a good, consistent, devoted, disciplined practice. I would love for the discipline I have in yoga to bleed into other areas – all areas! – of my life as well. I can hope for that. I had hoped to become a yoga teacher but I’m not so sure I want that anymore. I’m not sure that it would be as suited to me as I might have once thought it would be. Of course, perhaps, it was suited to me once but not now. People change and I’m not exception. All I really want out of my yoga is for it to really and truly be an integral part of my life, not only so that it will help my back pains but, so that it will help the pains I have in all areas of my life. I do believe that yoga truly has the potential to do that.

Thanks for this insightful meme, Kristi.


8 thoughts on “Yoga Story Meme – NaYoPracMo

  1. Nice post! Hmm, maybe if you keep an alloted time for just yoga, like maybe first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, and stick with it for thirty days–it’ll will become routine for you to do, like brushing your teeth, washing up, feeding kitty, etc. 🙂
    You Can Do It!!!

  2. Thanks, dear. Part of the problem with my practice right now is that I simply do not have a good space in which to practice. The only place that I can practice is carpeted and, while some people don’t find it to be a problem, I cannot STAND to practice on carpet. It is hard, it is uncomfortable and it is just another (fairly big) excuse for my not practicing.

    Sigh… I REALLY need a house in Asheville. 🙂

  3. Funny how you mention you realized the exercices you were given for your scoliosis were yoga poses; I realized the same thing not so long ago. A long time ago, when I was a kid, to prevent my scoliosis to get worse, I was given physiotherapy exercices to practice at home.

    Mostly, these exercices consisted of lying in Supta Baddha Konasana for long minutes, during which I concentrated on sticking my whole back to the floor, breathing deeply, and every few breaths, slightly taking my feet away from my pelvis, until my legs were straight. The same exercice was repeated in Viparita Karani, starting with the legs in Baddha Konasana, and straightening them.

    I never actually had the discipline of doing those exercices every day like I was supposed to. Given the severity of my scoliosis, they probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference… although sometimes I wish I had at least tried. But then again, try convincing a 6-year old that she needs to do boring exercices for her future health. Not much chance she’ll believe you.

    But now I realize that breath and concentration, with a little bit of movement, can change a lot in one’s body.

    On a different subject, I think listening to your body is the most important thing for anybody practicing yoga. I’ve had a short fling with Iyengar yoga last year, hoping it would help me heal from my Ashtanga experience/sacro-iliac joint injury, and they made me do things in the proper alignment, but which never felt right for me. For instance, I never do Tadasana with my feet together — it hurts my lower back, I don’t feel wide and open, and the rest of my body can’t align properly over my feet/ankles/hip bones/pelvis/sternum/neck. In Iyengar yoga, they forced me to do it with my feet together, but with my back against the wall to stabilize myself. Then they made us lock our thumbs together and raise your arms in front of us and over our heads. That very, very simple move, put me in excruciating discomfort and pain. I had to use blocks and a ton of props, just so I could be in the same alignment as everybody. But the truth is my body isn’t like others’. After 2 or 3 weeks, I realized that just went against my nature, and I felt that — unlike what I had experience of yoga so far — this technique didn’t allow me to be myself. I thought it was wrong and quit. Just because someone tells you it’s good for you, they can’t know for sure because they’re not in your body.

    I think in yoga, as in everything, there are ups and downs. The fantastic thing about it is that you can fall in love with it and have a serious relationship with it. Then you “break up” and, a few years later, realize it was the love of your life, and run back to it. Yoga will always be there for you, waiting for you to come back to it. Maybe someday you’ll finally have all the conditions in your life to really commit to it… Until you can’t anymore! No need to beat yourself up with your “lack of commitment”; it’s just your ego talking. Yoga is more than asanas.

    Glad to have found you!

  4. I am so glad the two of you found each other’s blogs! I feel like a matchmaker or something.

    A couple of years ago the pediatrician pointed out that my daughter has a slight scoliosis — nothing to worry about right now. So far she enjoys doing yoga with me so maybe if we keep doing that, we will be able to affect the further progression. I will do those poses you described, Julie, with her when she wants to practice with me….just kind of slipping them in “for fun.”

    See, you two are having a positive influence already! And Karen Beth, if you hadn’t sent me that email about “failing” to do yoga, I wouldn’t have known enough about you to point you to Julie’s blog. So maybe we need to rethink our ideas of success and failure…and stop feeling guilty!

  5. Julie – I’m glad to have found you too! Thanks again to Kristi! I mean to comment on your blog that getting my head to the floor in seated forward bend is no problem for me at all. My back will bend that way effortlessly and I have endless flexibility in my hips. But, other things…. not so much. Reading about all that you have gotten from your practice gives me hope and lots of inspiration though. I appreciate the chance to look into your world a bit. Hopefully someday I will have the optimal conditions in my life (i.e. my own space and a hardwood floor!) to really dedicate myself to yoga as I would wish to.


  6. Kristi – THANK YOU again for directing me to Julie’s blog. You are kind of like a matchmaker! 🙂

    I hope that your daughter will continue to do yoga with you. I didn’t know a thing about yoga at all until well AFTER my extensive and painful surgery. The exercises that I was given were POST-surgery. Since then, and in the research I have done, I truly believe – and others do too – that if I had done yoga extensively growing up and while my bones were developing, I would not have had to have the surgery. It CAN be preventative. Now, when I actually do it, it merely gets me to a comfortable place or, at least, a somewhat comfortable place. It is a coping mechanism for me now but could have been much more had I known about it in time. I truly believe that.

    I hope she will continue to get on the mat with you. What a wonderful thing to share!

    And yes, we do need to redefine our thoughts on success and failure. (Do I sense a great topic for the NaYoPracMo blog!??! :))

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