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September 18, 2012

What I Learned at Yoga Camp. ~ Anna Norman

Headstands in the middle of the room! Effortless shoulder stands! Strength and confidence! Advancing my practice!

That’s how this post was supposed to read.

When I decided to write about my second summer of Practice Camp™, while at my home studio in Brooklyn, my expectations for the week, as well as what I would write, were clear. I experienced significant physical and mental shifts during the five days of focused early-morning classes last August – surely this year would play out similarly. So, on a day with time to kill and a notebook in my bag, I began drafting my post, even though class was still weeks away.

 I should have known I was tempting fate: because a few days later, I got hurt.

I didn’t fall down the subway stairs or anything like that, but somehow my shoulder went from fine one week to throbbing with pain the next. “Small tears in the joint,” the doctor said. Was it repetitive stress, hypermobility, perhaps too much slumping on my too-soft couch? I don’t know. But I did know that all weight bearing was strictly off limits—a tiny blip in the grand scheme of life, but seemingly huge in the yoga scheme of things, especially with Practice Camp™ one week away.

So on the first bleary-eyed 6:45 a.m. morning, I unrolled my mat in the back corner of the studio, an unusual move for this middle-of-the-room kind of girl. I wanted so badly to push harder and go deeper, but I had no choice but to back off in practically everything I did. While the rest of the class kicked into handstand, or pressed up to wheel, my left arm shook when I simply extended it in child’s pose. To keep the weight off my shoulder, down dog, plank and even cat/cow required a new addition to the usual arsenal of props: a metal folding chair.

Try as I might, I couldn’t shake the frustration, embarrassment, and maybe even a little shame that I couldn’t follow along with the rest of the class. I felt whiny and weak. Of course, the intelligent part of my brain knew that no one else cared or likely even noticed that I was modifying, but every time that folding chair clanged on the bamboo floor as I moved it into place for the next pose, I could feel my brow furrow and my face twist into a grimace.

I was surprised that something so very small—like keeping my hands on my hips rather than extending them to the sky with the rest of the class—could feel so huge. How I would gladly tell someone else that it’s okay to hold back and take it easy, but couldn’t show that same compassion and understanding to myself.The week came to an end, and though I’m no closer to headstand in the middle of the room (farther from it, probably), I’m realizing that I did in fact get what I signed up for—an intense week of learning that deepened and advanced my practice. It just looked a little different than I expected.

And while I’m still clenching my jaw as I learn how to work with my practice in its current state, if there’s one thing yoga has taught me, it’s to keep showing up—through the highs and the lows, the joys and frustrations, the smiles and tears.

Chair, or no chair.

Anna Norman is a writer and blogger with a Brooklyn address and California roots. Things that make her happy include travel, handstands, red wine, and a good bottle of nail polish. Read more from her at her lifestyle/beauty blog Glitter, She Wrote (http://glittershewrote.com/), or on the Mala Yoga Blog (http://malayoganycblog.wordpress.com/) – the studio where she reluctantly unrolled a mat for the first time, and soon fell hard for the practice and the community that came along with it.

~

Editor: Evan Livesay

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