Strength vs Flexibility – Finding my balance

Building strength has always been extremely elusive for me. I was fielded as a middle/long distance runner in high school and the focus was endurance then, not strength. We were trained to be as lean as possible and gaining muscle was counter intuitive to our goals. The only strength training we did was on our lower body, our coach focused very much on building strong quads and squat-lunges were the mainstay of the day. As a result of those earlier years, I have almost zero upper body strength. I gain muscle mass slowly and lose them quickly. Being more flexible than strong, my ligaments tend to become hypermobile. Arm balances have often led me to injury and I shudder everytime an instructor barks ” Get into crow now!”. The thought of being able to balance strength and flexibility never occurred to me until I started on this TTC.
My first encounter with Ashtanga was on the first day of TTC when I had to deep dive into the Primary series. Bewildered, I got thrown into Vinyasa jump throughs and back (all not possible for me). I thought to myself “Seriously, can I get a refund for this course? I’m NOT going to survive!”. I spiraled into despair and disappointment at myself for not being able to accomplish the series. Hatha yoga was always easy for me, but this? Not possible. And then one day, Weilin mentioned in class “Ankle flexibility will take much longer to develop than joint flexibility.”. That was the nail on the coffin. I have rocks for ankles. Not kidding. All those years of totting around in high heels during my banking days have made my ankles as stiff as rocks. Remaining in Padmasana to me was TORTURE. I went home crying to my husband.
And then, things took a turn. As we worked on building upper body strength for handstands, pinchas, my upper body amazingly has become stronger. We worked on wheel barrowing in class, holding inverted Ls on the wall, chaturanga push ups and the likes. Soon, I was able to hold my pinchas for 10-15 secs without the wall. And then, one day I decided to try the full version of peacock pose and although it was a sad attempt but I was able to hold the pose for 5 secs. It was an achievement for someone who detests arm balances and would gladly choose hanumanasana (yes splits over crow) anytime.
I am starting to believe in myself, believe in my arms and core. This training has allowed me to trust in myself again. And one day, hopefully, I would be able to hold my kakasana and maybe, even transit into bakasana.
Jacqqie T.
200hr Weekday TTC Sept 2017

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