Lovin’ a Practice that Doesn’t Love Me. ~ Kimberly Lo

Via Kimberly Lo
on Mar 6, 2013
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My name is Kimberly and I love Ashtanga yoga.

It’s been my primary practice for nearly a dozen years. Over the years, I have tried to quit or at least take a break from it, but I always come back. I know I am not alone.

A lot of people on elephant journal and other sites have written about their love of Asthanga. However, I am a little different for you see, Ashtanga does not love me; I do not have the “right” body for it.

I am actually not very good at it either.

Until recently I was in deep denial over this. Then, I had an epiphany recently when my regular Mysore teacher was away, and there was a sub in her place. The sub was good—excellent in fact—and gently pointed out that I was doing a number of the poses incorrectly.

It was helpful, though somewhat embarrassing. Then came the question: “How long had I been doing this?”

“Almost 12 years,” was the reply.

“Oh,” the look of shock on her face was evident.

“Yeah,” I said. “I am not progressing.”

Ever the kind and gentle teacher, she informed me that my practice was fine. However, I thought about that experience throughout the day.

It was true; I had not actually made any progress in years. Unlike many other practitioners, ones who had been practicing far less than I had, I never got a single Second Series pose. My body had known what my mind had been denying for a long time: I probably will never master the Primary Series, let alone advance onto the Second.

The revelation was hard to swallow and I experienced the classic stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression.

I haven’t yet gotten to acceptance, but I think it will come in time.

All joking aside, I do love Ashtanga. I am sometimes frustrated by it and upset at myself. (And I sometimes think that if only I had the diligence and practiced six days a week, I would be making progress. However, life—having a preschooler, my job, etc.—get in the way of sticking to this schedule.)

The founder of Ashtanga, Pattabhi Jois, famously said that Ashtanga “is for all people: old people, young people, fat people, skinny people—only not lazy people.” He was right. It is.

Ironically, coming to terms with my limitations has made me more accepting of my body and my practice—it has also made me come to love my practice more than I thought possible.

Years ago, an ex-boyfriend shared that his father, a doctor, loved golf even though he was not good at it. Per him, golf and sex were two things you didn’t have not be good at to enjoy.

In my case, I would add Ashtanga to that as well.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

(Source: mimiandmegblog.com via Demmi on Pinterest)



About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


6 Responses to “Lovin’ a Practice that Doesn’t Love Me. ~ Kimberly Lo”

  1. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I have been exactly that yoga student that you describe of yourself. In hatha/vinyasa, the one who is an advanced beginner for well over 5 years–going on six … then recently having to scale way back on yoga because of life changes …

    I mean, it’s not just due to my age. I’ve read bloggers on here who discover yoga at, say, age 49, from a totally non-movement background. Either within a couple years–certainly by my age (less than 10 years older than that), they’re very advanced at asana … don’t know if it spills over to the other 7 limbs. And I had been accomplished in step aerobics before that. And when younger, some athletic (not acrobatic!) dance forms.

    But, you know I still need yoga. I’ve got me a deadline! My hips are far from flexible enough to even consider taking up Zumba before I reach sixty!

  2. kimberlylowriter says:

    Thanks for your comment.

    Go for the Zumba!

  3. robert says:

    dear kimberly,
    actually you may be stuck in a one-way direction in a second way, since there are two (among a million) approaches to the asana practice.
    the most common path nowadays is a path from the outside to the inside.
    you start with asanas, and – if you´re lucky – somehow this outer knowledge drips bit by bit into your inside and you start being interested in all the other topics which come along with yoga: ethic behaviour, toxin-free mats, enlightment, all that stuff.
    actually there is another way to practice it: starting from the inside.
    if you do not try to reach a pose, but start with listening to your inside, respecting the limits of your body and only go as deep into the asana as your body allows at the time, your success will be smoother, deeper and longer lasting. its the inside which molds the outside.
    also, creating a clear picture in your mind of what you want to achive and concentrating upon it while at the same time scanning your body until you leave the asana will enable you to work on the critical points which impede you from progressing and elimine mistakes.
    you said that this new teacher corrected many details in your practice – well, that should be your hint, that you may just have worked with the wrong blueprint.
    the more you learn to listen to your body, the less correction you will need from a second party.
    ironically following the traditional eight limbs from patanjali, you start exactly there: the yamas and niyamas give you the guidelines not only how to behave towards others, but how to treat your practice.
    this would implie, from my humble point of view, to go back to first series and really master it from the beginning, bit by bit, since only then, there is the space for second series.
    you might be surprised, how your second series practice will have changed, after making peace with first series.
    after all, when you enjoy ashtanga, the number of the series doesn´t matter.

    with best regards
    om shanti

  4. Shanna says:

    I wrote this post as a response to your article. http://wellnessfrominside.typepad.com/wellness_fr

  5. laura says:

    Thank YOU Kimberly. I have felt betrayed, seduced and enamored, all at once with the Primary Series. You give me hope and I am grateful for your honesty. You have helped me immensely make sense and peace with my practice. It always serves me and opens me, but the body stiff startles me over and over again. Namaste, Laura

  6. Mizboognish says:

    I practice Ashtanga too, and feel like Primary Series and I have gotten married. I practice without a teacher except for once a week. Yesterday, I go to Mysore, and there is a sub. After class she asks if I am new to the practice? Ego hits floor. I have been practicing yoga for 12 years and Ashtanga for 3. I am thinking, ouch, that bad? (Then I am reading other Elephant Journal article on Pregnancy & Ahtanga- giving up 3rd series after 4 years of Ashtanga practice- ego hits floor, again). Recently, feeling this turtle like progress, I have decided to shift focus to the other limbs. Making them the focus of my daily practice and just letting the asana be there. I have drank the Kool Aid and firmly believe this is my true path, so all we can do is practice, practice, practice.

    (And to all the former dancers and gymnasts- be greatful to your parents for getting you into body awareness activities, starting from 0 as an adult is quite an adventure)