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Dharma Kitchen

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My Yoga (Mat) Has Seen Better Days

Carrie H

My yoga mat has seen better days. My yoga practice has seen better days, too. 

I promised to myself to be honest with this blog. But how personal? That's a slightly different question, and something I struggle with. 

I've not written about matters of a spiritual nature lately because I've been grappling with some deep disappointments from someone I looked up to and trusted. I'm trying to figure out what to do with all the hurt, anger and sadness and, at times, pure outrage and disbelief. I am comforted only because I know I am not alone in my sentiments, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm repeatedly witnessing what I can only describe as some seriously icky, unethical and downright hurtful interpersonal behavior. 

My practice in the past few months has been interrupted, challenged and changed. At times it has suffered, and so has my body. I've gone from tired but capable to downright leaden, dull and slow most of the times I step on my fraying mat. Some days my adductors could not manage Warrior 2. Some days my left knee was talking to me in crescent pose. I have random heel pain in my right foot that ebbs and flows. Other days, burst-your-heart-open cobras turned into meek baby cobras. So many extra child's poses. So many. And going upside down in any way has been feeling like just a damn crazy thing to do; going there on purpose feels counterproductive, like pushing too hard. Forcing onward progress and momentum and keeping up the norm when you really just need to slow down. (I learned a long time ago that I'm truly bad at faking anything.) Grounding poses, lots of hip openers; those have been the go-to moves. I hit a forearm balance last week or so and thought, ok, my body still knows how to do this. It had been probably two months. It felt good. 

My trusty Jade Harmony yoga mat has truly seen better days. 

My trusty Jade Harmony yoga mat has truly seen better days. 

During all of this transition, I developed a cold last month, way earlier than I might normally get one in the season, or at all. At one point, I went more than a week (maybe 8 or 9 days) since my last class or practice (other than a random 10 minutes here or there before bed.) And when I unrolled the mat and started to move, it felt like it had been a year. I am grateful for my practice and don't take it for granted, but it has become abundantly clear to me how my yoga practice was helping me, in ways I couldn't necessarily articulate, even after all these years. 

I am always reminded, though, that as quickly as we lose that resilience, we can gain it back. This time is different, because of what I've witnessed. The body needs to heal before I can call it into duty for anything it used to do. That negative energetic imprint needs releasing. I need to white sage myself or something. It's gotta come out, somehow. 

Slowly, my body is rebuilding its strength, the neural patterns for poses are getting reactivated. Some, at least. Last week, I felt much better. Today, not so much. A class full of twists brought out the toxins. I'd been feeling a good cry coming on all week, and today I got to release the valve a little bit. We were asked to not judge. Typically, I have become pretty good at turning off that inner monologue. Today was a different story. I could not get into side crow, a pose I used to toss off without much struggle. Where did my elbow go? What happened to the room in the spine I used to have? Why do I feel like there's too much, pardon my slang-driven bluntness, junk in the trunk? Who put that there? Twisty arm balances are definitely tricky, but I struggled for probably a third of the class. It's said that we store things in our bodies and there's a lot stored in my gut at the moment. That's new for me, and it's presented me with some ongoing challenges in the past year, but recent events have accentuated it. This is the lesson of yoga, though; every day our bodies are different and there's no such thing as something you "should" or "shouldn't" be able to do. 

I have been talking for months about how I need a new mat, and have been threatening to buy one. I talk about this with my yoga pals. I kept feeling there's too much good juju on my trusty Jade for me to put it aside. I won't say my mat is tainted now, but I have less affection for it. I can see how it's not serving me; it's starting to slip. If I stand in Warrior 2, sometimes I hear tiny tears under my feet. I'm becoming detached from it, frustrated at times. I'm not sure I want the same kind, and I don't want the same color. It's definitely time for a new one, however.

Tomorrow I will likely feel a bit better, emotionally speaking, about this. Later, I'll feel better physically if I take a nice Epsom salt bath. This too, shall pass. Yoga is both the way through and out, and the way in. Yoga teaches us to rise to our challenges with grace, compassion and understanding. I am trying and doing my best; I just wish there was little more of those qualities to go around right now.