It’s Hip to Be Square – Except When It’s Not.

10802591_1501415153467456_301750394_n“Inhale, step your left foot forward into Warrior I as you square your hips to the front.” calls the teacher.

Somewhere in the back of the room, a student is sweating, unable to breath smoothly because, dammit – those hips won’t square. Now the student is cussing at himself in the mind because why can’t he do it “right.” That student decides yoga isn’t for him, leaves and from that moment on decides he “can’t do yoga.” That’s BULLS*%T!

If I could say one thing to new students everywhere, I would repeat the mantra “You can’t do yoga wrong.” over and over and over again. Sure we have alignment theory and sequencing theory, but there are generalizations in yoga because we are generally not teaching yoga in the way it was intended centuries ago. Now we have group classes and teacher manuals with a whole lot of big egos teaching it all. (**note** – in case you thought I didn’t have an ego because I was a yoga teacher – WRONG, I’ve got ego to spare).

Yoga was designed to be customized to the student. Traditionally, a student would seek out a reclusive guru – some master teacher that maybe lived in a cave or a forest and learn, one-on-one, from that teacher. The techniques varied based on a student’s physical condition, mental ability, and personality characteristics.

In 2016, we have a modern society based on monetary exchange and yoga is mostly done in a group setting. Obviously the yoga of 2016 is going to have evolved and changed based on the humans teaching it over the centuries. Make no mistake – “classical yoga” as we teach it today, is really only dating back to the early 1900s coming from Master teachers like Pattabi Jois or BKS Iyengar. And it was not developed in some altruistic “healing “manner – money was involved. Please don’t get it twisted – capitalism, American individuality and accomplishment culture have changed or evolved yoga. A public group class is rarely customized because by its very nature, it’s public, open to all and available to any type of body.

finalWhat does this mean to you, as a student?

When yoga teachers, in a group setting, say things like “square your hips,” they are intending to reach all 30 people in the class – it is a cue that works for most bodies and is not customized for you, the individual body. Hopefully the teacher you are with is kind enough to reach you at least once, individually in the class, but not always.

The cue itself is well intentioned, Warrior I is a neutral hip pose (sometimes called closed hips) and the hip bones are intended to be face forward. The cue is intended to cultivate the action of moving the hips TOWARDS that direction. You aren’t doing it wrong if your hips won’t make it forward – you have genetics at play and life experience that lives in your muscles and connective tissue.

tumblr_nka5igNB0h1qzun1ro1_400Please know that some poses won’t be possible for your body. However, you can still benefit from cultivating the actions that move towards the intended posture. This is called a “krama,” or a stage of the pose. I do hope your teacher offers you variations or adaptations, if not – you might seek a different teacher.

Maybe you have short arms and arm balances make you feel like a “T-Rex.” I read my spiritual texts and no where does it say you are going to hell if you can’t master the Crow pose.

Maybe you birthed twins and your middle is not as toned as someone who never had kids – love it, for God’s sake – you made LIFE! That’s way more impressive than someone who can balance on one arm.

Maybe your story is one of abandonment and violence – well of course it will be hard for you to “open your heart,” – my goodness – just-becausesomeone literally trampled on yours! It’s ok to hate heart openers.

Maybe as a kid you were constantly asked to be perfect and now in your yoga practice, you just can’t stop perfecting that asana. Here is your chance to practice being human and allow for “mistake!”

 

The Bhagavad Gita, a classical Indian yoga text, states “no effort on the path is ever wasted.” Work TOWARDS your square hips, maybe someday the hips will square, but you also need to be OK with knowing that maybe they won’t.

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You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. 

 

If you take nothing more from all these words – take this – You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. Practice your potential.

Happy Birthday Baby Belly.

5 Years Ago my body was injured – slashed through with a surgical knife.  Abdominal walls severed in two by a bulging baby boy in a torso too short to properly accommodate him.  These battle scars the belly carries are from war zones called C-Section and Diastisis Recti.  I have the unfortunate appearance of someone still pregnant (which sometimes people ask!) and as a yoga teacher, it is highly unlikely that I will ever be mistaken for having “nice abs.” And to have people judge me for it still hurts.  diastasis-recti

It’s all well-meaning what people say after such a battle of pregnancy and labor and hospital stays.  Be thankful – that’s proof you had a baby.  Well thanks – my son is actually proof that I had a baby.  I can be thankful for him without loving scars and muscle weakness.

They placate a new mother with platitudes like, “thank goodness for modern medicine,” and “your child’s smile is all you need.”  But they don’t know – they don’t live in this body, they don’t have  to look at themselves naked with these sobering reminders of what, quite frankly, is a traumatic experience, albeit one with a beautiful ending.  They don’t understand the toll it takes on a wife and a marriage when you don’t love your body.  Even when your husband says you are beautiful.

I didn’t even accept that I had a certain trauma.  I covered and hid my feelings because, really, I am grateful and I wasn’t one of the moms forced to a C-Section.  I wasn’t put on the clock.   After 54 hours of trying natural labor (24 hours), of trying an epidural and medications, sifting, showers, puking, crying, I decided to agree and tell the doctor I’d had enough. Then in a mere 20 minutes, there he was.  The light of my world, the soul of my soul, my whole new purpose for even being alive.

I can even remember the very exact moment before  we went to surgery.  I asked my wonderful midwife, who I will love until my dying day and beyond, what would have happened to us in the days of old (seriously, laboring mothers say weird things!) and she very honestly told me that I would have died.  Logically, I totally know that I did every single thing possible to have that natural experience.  But somehow I had failed and here is this damn belly with a C-Section Shelf staring at me in the mirror reminding me that I couldn’t open enough to allow my son to live.  What on earth is wrong with me? I mean, I did YOGA, I did BREATHING, I did ORGANIC, I had a DOULA!

Like most things in my life, I pushed it away.  I focused on this happiness of new life, I made every effort to positive spin my C-Section story, how I had the freedom of choice and didn’t have that trauma that other moms have, THEY needed the group support, THEY deserved the kind words, I didn’t even deserve to be comforted because after all – it wasn’t that bad, other people have it worse.  I live in the now, not the past…..right?

 

But I closed down completely on a physical level.  That emotion lived in my very hormones, my body knew there was a trauma.  My desire knew there was a trauma.  My fertility knew there was a trauma.  My core strength knew and you can’t deny a weakness in an asana.  No epic arm balance or handstand selfies for me (yet!).

 

And still I clung to the denial of a happy emotion of acceptance and non-attachment.  After all, I’m a yogi.  I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free.  But what I’m not supposed to do is LIE.  Satya, the second of the Yamas, the ethical guidelines.  That includes lying to yourself and denial is a bit of a self-lie.

So here it is, 5 years post partum.  I just celebrated the 5 glorious years of my own motherhood and my son’s beautiful life. Time to forgive my body.  I’ve been working up to this for a while and this post, is a catharsis, I can’t possibly be the only woman with a story like this and just maybe this reaches a woman with this issue and she knows that she is not alone.

So here it is.

Body, I’m sorry I blamed you for not being enough.

Body, I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize that you were hurting.

Body, I’m sorry that I ignored your messages and didn’t listen to your pain.

Body, I’m sorry that I made you carry this burden of emotion for so long.

Body, I forgive you for not opening up.

Body, Thank you for carrying my son.

Body, Thank you for birthing this new understanding 5 years later.

Body, Do you think maybe you can forgive me too and we can try again?

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I have my yoga practice to thank for this realization.  Something happens when you sink into your practice, all that time on the mat evolves into something.  It’s a spark of awareness, you begin to reveal your truth.  Yogis say it’s like shining up a cloudy glass so that you remove the residue of experience from the window of your soul.  After all, I’m a yogi. I’m supposed to practice letting go, letting be, and becoming free – but you don’t have to practice that at all, as you practice on the mat with asana and pranayams, this becomes a spontaneous arising of a feeling of liberation or Moksha.

Resources for Diastisis Recti

Checking for Diastisis Recti:

Yoga for Diastisis Recti:

**I have done this video, I like this teacher, I think she is accessible to every mom.  I only wish I had found this earlier.  No one told me I had a diastisis recti until about 3 years out – so I did further damage, but I have hope and I’ve been planking and working achieving results.**

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Alignment Authenticity Anatomy Junkie Spiritual Flow Mantras Mudras Continuous Education Practice What You Teach Progress Not Perfection Guiding Teachers: BKS Iyengar Pattabi Jois Shiva Rea Daren Friesen (Moksha Chicago) Marinda Stopforth (Prairie Yoga - Lisle, IL)

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