I recently completed one of the most grueling and time-intensive projects of my entire life. For most of 2013, I was in pre-production on an experimental film, a process that included months of rehearsals with an ensemble cast, the construction of an elaborate set, and then several weeks of filming in January. This project was definitely not something I could have done alone, or even with just a small team, and by the end I had nearly 50 people working with me on the film. Needless to say, my yoga practice fell to the wayside, and so did my blogging. But I’m back now, and rarin’ to go!
As I work my way back into my yoga practice, I’m trying to remain hyper-aware of two things. First, I want to make sure that I don’t injure myself, and so I constantly have to hold myself back from doing too much. In general, it’s a good idea to be mindful of not pushing yourself beyond where your body is today. This is especially important for people making a comeback from an injury or an extended period of not practicing. The muscle memory for doing certain things might be there, but that doesn’t mean your muscles (or bones, ligaments, etc.) are ready, too.
Holding back can be frustrating at times. For instance, in class, the teacher might suggest an “advanced” arm balance to students, and one part of me automatically wants to go there. But the other half of me knows that I really have nothing to prove — to myself or anyone else — and it’s okay just to work the more basic form of a pose instead of always taking it up to the next level.
Secondly, I am trying to reevaluate how I approach my yoga practice, and how I integrate it into my life. I never made a conscious decision to stop practicing yoga as I moved further and further into the depths of my film production. But it happened, and my physical and mental wellbeing suffered as a result. Next time around, I’d like to do everything in my power to sustain some sort of yoga practice even when I’m in the midst of an intense and chaotic film production.
The times in life when we need yoga the most are often the times when we find it the most difficult to practice. For me, one reason I stopped doing yoga was that I had an “all or nothing” attitude about it. I felt like going to yoga just once a week, and maybe struggling because my practice was rusty, was simply not worth it. So I didn’t go at all. Likewise, I felt that doing even a 20- or 30-minute self-practice wasn’t worth the time, because it would never be as strenuous or comprehensive as a full class. So the end result was a month without doing ANY yoga.
Most serious yoga practitioners, at some time or another, will have to take a step back from yoga. Sometimes this is due to injury, a crazy work schedule, or some other factor that prevents you from keeping a regular practice. Of course, a hiatus can also be the result of positive life changes — e.g., child birth, moving to a new city, job promotion, etc. Whatever the cause may be, taking a step back from yoga can be a great way to hit the reset button, so that you can approach yoga again with a new set of goals, expectations, and maybe even a whole new perspective. The key, I think, is to approach the familiar with what some Buddhists call the beginner’s mind or don’t-know mind. This process of (re)discovery can yield surprising results. For me, I hope to reconnect with my practice in way that makes it sustainable through thick and thin, rather than something I only do at an “advanced” level, or not at all.