And we gently exhale out of Urdhva Hastasana into Uttanasana.
Doesn’t that sound nice? Peaceful and soothing, no?
Ugh. It’s not.
For those who were with us yesterday, Urdhva Hastasana is the Standing Salute. We inhale up into that pose, then we exhale down into a Standing Forward Fold.
As your gym teacher used to say, “touch your toes.”
Or, in my case these days, especially on the first try, touch your shins. And that is truly frustrating, because a few months ago, when I was in a regular practice, I could get down to my toes relatively easily. With my legs straight! (or at least they felt straight to me). By the end of the warm up (5 cycles of Sun Salutations A and 3 Sun Salutations B), I could hang there with my knuckles pushing into the floor.
I have lost so much flexibility. So much that I wonder if it’s worth starting back again.
What I really want to write about is how futile it seems sometimes to restart a practice. Don’t get me wrong … stretching up and then reaching down to touch your shins is probably better than reaching for a glass (a bottle, who am I kidding?) of Priorat. Or the remote, or both. But it’s not where I was and it’s not where I want to be.
I know it will all come back. But to what end? In about 12 hours I have a consult with a surgeon to see if / when I have to have an inguinal hernia repaired.
If that needs to happen sooner than later, then so be it. Get it done and get through the recovery and get back to it when it’s safe.
If it needs to happen later, then it’s probably better to be fit and flexible and all the more healthy for when they need to do the surgery. It’s only a 1-2 week recovery, according to Dr. Google. Maybe I should talk to an actual medical professional before tuning a “what if” situation into worst-case scenario. Old habits die hard.
Anyway, if it’s going to happen later, then the healthier / stronger one is, the quicker one will recover. En teoría.
And then we can start over. Again. Fuck. But, isn’t that why we’re doing this project? To justify the starting over?
I guess we never stop starting over.
Well, that’s that then. End of story. Jolly good, we have found our answer and the book is written.
If only it were that simple.
What I really want to write about is how easy forward folds look, and how difficult they really are … for me. They’re also the precursor to asanas which I have already learned in the sitting sequence (with beginner modifications), many of which I wonder if I will ever be able to do in their prescribed form.
“It’s not about the pose,” a friend of mine and Ashtanga junkie, has repeatedly told me. “It’s about the breath and the space.”
In my heart, I know this is true.
Well, that’s a lie: in my heart I’m not really even sure what the hell she’s talking about. But I do believe that we are where we are and in yoga, like in many other things, there is no perfect. There is no achieving one specific thing and then, alakazam, you’re done.
What I really want to write about is how frustrating it is to get excited about something and join a few too many Instagram feeds and see all these yogatastic Instamodels doing contortion poses and thinking those are role models.
They are not where I’ll ever be. Nor will they ever sleep with me. But yet I keep looking and I keep wondering … if I’ll be able to that. And by do I mean the pose, not the poser. I swear, it’s about the practice, not the eye candy or fit semi-naked, fully flexible fitness models.
What I want to write about is that it is POINTLESS to compare. Yoga is not a competition.
I so want to believe that.
I so wish I believed that.
I know full well the Instas are edited and photoshopped up the asana and back. I know full well there were hundreds of outtakes before they posted just the right one. And yet I still look at them and part of me goes, “well, fuck. I really wish I could do that / look like that. It will never happen. Why bother (re)starting.”
I also know (but have to remind myself) that the majority of them are 30 (if not more) years younger than I am.
Realty, reality, wherefore are thou so harsh?
So. Yes. Moral of story: Instayogis do not make the best benchmarks.
What about the guys in the Ashatanga studio? They are live. They are imperfect and they need adjustments. They don’t always make it into the pose that is in the chart. But they are a million times closer to the ideal on the chart than I am.
Again. This is not a competition. They have been there longer than I have, and surely they didn’t start out as a 56-year-old man recovering from a strained gluteus medias that kept him from walking without a limp for a few weeks (and that was before the torn groin. I am so falling apart.)
What I really want to write about it how ridiculous I am.
Bob, just do the work. Breathe into where you are. Remember how much you improved from that first day in December until you had to stop at the end of February.
It is all a process.
Reach to the sky.
Swan dive down, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Hinge at the hips and keep your back flat for as long as you can.
Your hands might only reach your knees. Your shins. The top of your feet. Maybe even your toes. It does not matter.
Move your weight to the front of your feet. You won’t fall. Look, your fingers just got closer to the floor.
You only need to be there for that one exhalation. Relax your neck. Let your head fall down.
Maybe stay there for a few more breaths. Feel the stretch in your calves. Feel your hips release a little more. Feel your hamstrings scream at you … they are yelling, “thanks!”, it just doesn’t sound like that.
Try to push up through your legs just a little bit. They don’t have to be perfectly straight today. They don’t have to be perfectly straight ever.
Just for fun, come back up, very slowly.
This time, bend at your knees, just a little, and try to fold your chest down on top of them. Don’t worry about what you look like.
Your hands are on the floor now, aren’t they? Nice. You said you couldn’t do that just a little while ago. Now push up and straighten your legs out as much as you can. That’s enough. Don’t overdo.
No one is taking your photo.
This is just you.
This is not for Instagram.
One more time. Inhale up into Standing Salute. Exhale slowly and swan dive down into standing forward fold. Breathe there. Just hang there and be where you are, right now.
Connect the breath to the movement.
Inhale up. Stretch. Exhale down. Fall.
Try again. Fall again. Fall better.