After two decades of daily practice and a lifelong love affair with yoga, I am announcing a conscious uncoupling from certain poses.
There are no hard feelings. We will maintain a wholeness in our separation that will allow us to co-parent my body, mind and spirit. We will always have mutual respect for each other, and as a yoga teacher, I will never speak ill of these poses to my body or to other students.
But for now, it has been decided that is it best if we take a different path on the way home.
“I did it, and now I’m letting it go,” a friend said to me recently about finally getting her Headstand after months of practice. Me too.
The news of my conscious uncoupling will not come as a surprise to those who have been in my company. The trouble between us has been brewing for a long time. Chronic pain is the biggest, loudest 800 pound gorilla in any room.
When I check into a new yoga class and they ask me to sign the waiver, I just say, “I have it all.” Broken bones, impingements, nerve damage, blown discs; the only thing I don’t have is sciatica. I healed that!
I have it all, and I take full responsibility.
While I have survived many health issues, the latest, I admit, has kicked my ass-ana. I have a tiny fracture in my cervical spine which has led to a herniated disc and a pinched nerve, which creates pain like a m-f houseafire.
My marriage to yoga is one of the most meaningful relationships in my life. When I am sad, my mat makes me happy. When I am happy, my mat says, “You go girl.” Yet every relationship needs fine-tuning. So we’ve decided it might be best to part ways from a few poses. If the pose don’t fit, you must acquit, and although I’m not a quitter, I am going to let these poses go.
The Poses I’m Leaving Behind
Once upon a time I could do all eight variations. Even hands-free I was fairly stable. I have a core made of concrete. I practiced timings and enjoyed all sorts of transitions in arm balances. I can do Sirsasana II to Eka Pada Koundinyasana I, which translates to “badass.”
I thought for years that because I knew how to do it, that I could do it. Wrong. Today I’m concerned that headstand could be contradicted for anyone with fragile bone health, such as cancer survivors. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I will still teach this pose to interested students. It is the King of all postures, and as such, I will give it the respect it deserves. But personally we are going our separate ways.
I love this pose. My cervical spine is nowhere near the mat when I am vertical. I nearly levitate off the ground. My longest timing was 20 minutes. I am not uncoupling (yet), but we are going to date cautiously, and for any long holds I’ll be on blankets using a chair for support.
It still feels okay to do a few a day. But I recently practiced series 1 of the Ashtanga sequence, and let’s just say there really is too much of a good thing. Strong boundaries make good friends.
I am not giving up Forearm stand or Handstand, but I think at this point with brittle bones it is irresponsible for me to practice inversions in the middle of a room. The message it sends is not “be fearless.” The message is, “I’m an idiot.”
Camel pose is not bad for my neck if I could keep my head level. But this is not one of my favorites, so I’ll be substituting other backbends which bring me joy. Why? Why not! I’m going to focus on the things that bring me joy and let all the rest go, just because I can.
I’m sure there will be other poses in the future that, like a night of decadence, feel good until the morning after. But for now, I am practicing with restraint, and believe me, that is the most badass thing I’ve ever done on the mat.
Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga and Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. You can find her classes on yogadownload.com.