I have been practicing yoga one-and-off for 10 years. More off than on, occasionally going a year or two between classes.
3 years ago after moving countries, for the first time I got into a habit of daily practice of asanas. Being in a new country with no clue as to where I would go, I looked up different teachers on youtube instead, bought a yoga mat, and practiced from home. After 1 week I did my first crow, after 1 month I did the split, and after 6 months my mind became calm and free from stress and anxiety.
Practicing yoga alone from home, I studied my errors with mirrors and recordings whenever I could, but eventually I reached a point where I could not progress further without a teachers help. Also I was worried of the long term effect of doing poses wrong, so I found a yoga teacher to teach me posture and prevent injury. While being hyperflexible, I did not have nearly as much strength as it appeared from the outside. And while my new teacher kept pushing my limits, I quickly became more concerned about living up to expectations of a pushy teacher, than to listen to my body. The injury was inevitable. I couldn’t lift my arms for one month due to the pain in my back after repeatedly forcing myself in and out of wheel pose. The thought of yoga which used to make me feel at peace now just made me feel angry instead. I thought yoga was ruined for me forever. I realised that I hadn’t been practicing for myself, I was practicing for the approval of my teacher. Somewhere along the way my practice had stopped being mine.
After 6+ months, mostly due to stiffness from sitting at a desk, I slowly and hesitantly returned to yoga again. First 10 minutes per day. Then 15, 20, 30 and 1 hour. Slowly I started to feel like myself again in yoga and found joy again in the practice. I was doing this for myself again. My body knows my limitations, I just have to listen.
This lesson taught me the importance of taking it easy, listening to my body and to stand up for myself if I don’t feel comfortable in any asana, and it’s an advice I want to share to everyone who practices physical activities. It is easy to get competitive or pressured in a group environment, but yoga is not about being able to twist and bend your body into complex-looking poses, or standing on your head for 5 minutes. It is a journey, your journey, whatever that means to you.