A year ago, I walked away from the yoga mat. The breakup was pretty serious. Yoga was a way of life for me, and a physical yoga practice was an important part of it. It was a constant in my life and I did it daily. When I moved through my daily yoga practice, I felt calm and connected. It helped me process my emotions, keep me healthy, and bring me back to centre. I couldn’t imagine life without it.
Then, things started to change. I began feeling exhausted and worn out after moving through the poses and it quickly progressed to feeling burned out all the time. I developed injuries and they wouldn’t heal. My once flexible body would stiffen up, like it was contracting to protect itself. In desperation, I spent hours trying to roll, stretch, and rehab my pain away. Nothing worked. The injuries kept increasing. I was confused and frustrated. How could the one thing that made me feel calmer, healthier, and centred no longer make me feel good? I didn’t know what was happening.
Others saw what I couldn’t
Thankfully, two people did see what was happening and had the courage to tell me. A yoga teacher spoke to me one day after seeing me cry on the mat while fighting to do poses that I clearly couldn’t do. Your doing too much, she said with kindness. You have to stop. A physiotherapist said softly while massaging my muscles, you can’t continue. You have to stop. Their words were hard to hear. I loved my yoga practice. I had been doing it for years. It made me feel good and made the rest of life better. What happened? Where did it go wrong?
I was blind to my struggle on the mat because it was a reflection of the struggle in my mind.
Looking back, I see I was blind to my struggle on the mat because it was merely a reflection of the struggle in my mind. I didn’t want to accept the reality that I had changed. That I aged. That I had physical limitations I didn’t have before. I was rejecting the present version of myself, which was really not accepting the present moment. In doing so, I turned my yoga practice from something positive to one of shame and self rejection.
When I finally realized what I was doing, I felt so broken that I thought I could never practice yoga on the mat again so I rolled up my mats, said goodbye, and walked away to rebuild a life learning to love myself again.
Rebuilding with love
And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past year. It was tough at first. I forgot how to love myself. It took time. I didn’t have a plan or even know one step to the next. I just trusted that if I stayed focused on the present moment and accepted myself, it would all work out. And it has. I’ve learned to love myself just as I am and with it, my heart has opened wide all around me. My life today is now focused on helping others, being of service, and making them happy. I guess Karma yoga is my main yoga practice now.
I felt healthy again and with it, the urge to practice on the mat returned.
To my surprise, my body healed and my energy returned. I felt healthy again and the urge to move on the mat returned. I tiptoed back on the mat recently. After saying a fond hello, I spread my yoga toes wide and then planted them down gently and firmly before moving slowly and mindfully. The practice is different now. It’s healing, loving, and present. It’s deeper, wiser, and mature. Like me.
My story isn’t unique. We all have to face the reality one day that we are older. Have you accepted it? If you’re not sure, look at your practice on the mat. Is it loving, respectful, and supportive of the person you are today? If you look closely, you’ll find the answer.