Yoga, strength, injury, and acceptance

Working out at the gym is very straightforward and cut-and-dry to me. There’s cardio and weightlifting – and even with modifications, I know which muscle groups I’m working and how to build strength. Even if I have an injury, I always feel like there’s still something I can do at the gym.

Yoga is different to me – as it should be! When I first started, I didn’t want to use blocks or props. I thought I was fit – so I could do it all. I soon realized that was not the case. Yoga made me hyper-aware of issues in my body. I realized that MY yoga would not always look like I imagined and that there were shapes I likely would never be able to take due to my anatomical makeup. I had to learn to accept that.

And now, with the issues and problems I’ve had lately in my lower back with lumbar compression and a hyper-mobile SI joint causing near-constant pain – MY yoga is changing again. How many transformations can you take in a year? I guess I will find out.

It has been difficult to reconcile the fact that I am crazy strong in the gym – but there are some simple yoga poses that my body cannot handle – and many that I will never be able to do to their fullest expression – or whatever I expect that should look like.

It’s frustrating. It makes the perfectionist inside of me angry – sometimes very much so. And then the negative self-talk sets in – and sometimes it’s not just negative, it’s downright nasty.

I try to let those thoughts leave my head as quickly as they came in.

Some days, I am successful. Other days, I am not, and my practice suffers as a result.

At the gym, there’s always a different exercise to choose from – can’t do tricep dips today because of shoulder pain? Kickbacks or overhead tricep extensions work just fine, too. How can I make that work for me with yoga? Accepting PERCEIVED limitations and turning them into alternates or even advantages – accepting myself when I feel like I’m failing – letting go of the parts of my body that won’t cooperate and remembering to embrace the parts that do…

So… yeah – I CAN bench press 125lb. I KNOW that I’m strong. But, sometimes all of that knowledge dissolves when I can barely lift my right leg into a three-legged dog because my hamstrings and psoas and lower back are so tight and painful.

Deep down, I know that the asana (the poses) is just a small part of yoga. I have a lot to learn, still, but I know this, and I know I need to stop trying to convince myself otherwise. Acceptance is the only road – forcing my body through anything it shouldn’t do for the sake of what I think it should be like vs. what actually serves me best is detrimental to me both physically and mentally.

As usual, these things are often easier said than done. I can only continue to try my best to be mindful with every movement, let go of expectations, and only take postures that are safe for my back and will keep my body strong and healthy. Regardless of how I wish it looks – it’s about how it feels inside that truly counts.

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