Thursday, December 2, 2010

The hard part of "Listen to your body"

If you attend yoga classes, you've no doubt heard the phrase, "Listen to your body" once or twice.  If you attend regularly, you've probably heard it a billion times.

It's the kind of thing that I find I hear so many times, I run the risk of letting it go in one ear and out the other without really hearing it - and more importantly, really listening.

As somewhat of a vinyasa junkie in my yoga practice, I've become accustomed to being highly physically challenged in my yoga classes.  Always working toward the next seemingly impossible pose, always working toward going upside down in new and exciting ways.  There's nothing wrong with that, by any means, but it does get you into the habit of pushing yourself.  That's a habit that's really important to learn how to break at certain times - most importantly, when you're sick.

The day before my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, Marc and I both got head colds at the exact same time.  As I sit here writing 8 days later, I'm better, but frustratingly, still not 100%.

Let me start out by saying - it could have been a LOT worse, and I added that to my long list of Things I'm Grateful For This Year.  We could have had pneumonia or fevers or the stomach flu (god forbid!) or been so ill we were bedridden.

But as active people, it's really frustrating.  What made it particularly frustrating was that I had planned to offer a free Thai Yoga Massage to any willing member of the LeVasseur family I could get my hands on to offer metta and to give myself a chance to practice and stay sharp in my technique.  Needless to say, no massages were given.

It didn't kill my yoga practice, however - it just changed it.

This is where the "listen to your body" comes in handy.  Off the mat, it forced me to lay down instead of running around the kitchen making a more elaborate dinner than necessary the other night.  It made me listen when my very generous boss at Karma Kids let me go early on Tuesday, lest I cough on the children and make myself and others worse.

On the mat, it changed my home practice from a juicy vinyasa exploration of poses and my limits, to, well...a kind of blissful 45 minutes.  (Many poses taken from my earlier blog post, Take it Easy) Being a compulsive planner, I decided the best way to save myself from going overboard and chasing down more challenging and stimulating Sun Salutations would be to plan out my practice.

15 minutes - Very mellow free form vinyasa.  On my back, hands-and-knees, and a couple of low lunges and on-my-belly backbends.

7.5 minutes - Supported fish pose with legs in supported bound angle (butterfly) pose.  This opened up my poor lungs and chest and helped wake me up a little.  In a really restful way, of course.

7.5 minutes - Supported Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold).  I put a pillow under my knees, a blanket under my seat, and stacked blocks up until I could fold forward, resting my forehead on the blocks, with comfort and the gentlest of stretches in my hamstrings.  This is a pose where I tend to have anxiety and overdo it, and I think this was one of the most enjoyable poses of the bunch.  Having my forehead supported was soothing and kind of massage-y, and it helped encourage me to relax my belly, which has been endlessly contracting the last week with the all the business of coughing and nose-blowing.

15 minutes - The queen of restorative poses, in my opinion - Viparita Karani, or legs up the wall.  My legs wanted to bend before the 15 minutes was up, which often happens for me, so I alternated leg positions for the last 5 or so minutes.  I also found I was kind of ready to get up and write before the 15 minutes were up - I can't decide if that's a good sign or a sign that I need to work harder to quiet my thoughts.

The moral of the post:  LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  Be good to it.  It probably feels good to get a little sweaty or a little adrenaline rush if you've been laid up with a cold for a few days, but you're just going to prolong your recovery.  Use the opportunity to CHILL OUT, something I know I rarely do.

Perhaps not the most revelatory or original moral, but it's one that bears repeating and re-listening.

There's plenty more going on in my yoga-verse, but for now I'm going to listen to my body and call it a day.

Namaste and take care of yourselves!  Fight cold season with all your might!

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