March 6, 2015

Why I Kissed my Mat: from an Overachieving Yogi.


I kissed my mat today. It wasn’t intentional; it just kind of happened. And with that kiss, I said goodbye to an overachiever.

I’m a classic Asian American. I use it in the stereotypical sense of being from an overachieving family. All the stereotypes apply: played piano in Carnegie Hall; studied with precollege Juilliard students for a summer; have three degrees from top tier universities; met modest career success.

Of course, I brought this drive to my yoga practice. I’ve hit it hard and these days I’m chillaxing with a daily hot yoga practice. I’ll sneak in two and even three classes if I’m feeling a little more ornery than usual but for the most part I’m coasting. A little over a year ago, I had a great teacher who put the handstand bug in me. I started working towards it and I can hold one reasonably well.

But, about 12 months ago, after I had the first hint of a tweaked wrist, I decided to pull back and to instead focus on flexibility.

My rationale is that, as a person who leads an active lifestyle that includes rock climbing and skiing, I’m already reasonably strong. So I thought that it might be worthwhile focusing on the traditionally female strength of flexibility. I arrived at this aspiration after practicing/experimenting with alternate nasal breathing. Suffice to say that I am striving to be as balanced as possible between left/right brain and strength/flexibility.

While I focused on flexibility and balance, I noticed a welcomed shift. I started to enjoy my practice. Every breath and every movement started to become really enjoyable. Of course I enjoyed some practices more than others and, on a few occasions, I had some really blissful practices enjoyed all the way to Savasana. Sublime.

Today, I was pretty tuned into my flow. I have enough experience where I can generally keep my eyes closed through the initial sets which allows me to better tune into my sensations. The last few weeks I have been working one legged lifts from crow.  Not for power but for more of a balance exercise and it’s been great. The obvious progression is lifting both legs into handstand.  Well today was the day to try.

I went into crow, continued to look forward, shifting more and more weight onto my fingers and off the base of my palm until I was ready to lift into handstand. I lifted and it held! Of course with the mental shift and internal voice of, “Holy shit I’m doing it,” I started to lower.

And that’s when it happened: As I lowered onto my face, I floated into a kiss. No teeth, and certainly no tongue, but a kiss nonetheless. I kissed my mat and then kicked back into plank, upward dog and reveled in my success.

This is when the overachiever kicked in. I forced myself to do it two more times. It was all ego…and I paid for it. After the forced effort of two more presses and the holding of breath, I lost the mind/body connection for the rest of class. It was mechanical sets through the end of class.

After some reflection, I realized why I had lost the mind/body connection and I attribute it to the overachiever in me. In hindsight, I also realized that, by not listening to my body, I may have opened myself up to potential injury. Over the past 12 months while I have been focusing on feeling good, I have remained injury free. No tweaks, no muscle spasms, just a lot of feel good sessions.

With this realization and the recognition of the overachiever and his ego, maybe the next time I have a breakthrough, I’ll make certain to first tune into my body and follow its lead with the return to my breath.


Author: George Hung

Editor: Caroline Beaton 

Photo: Flickr

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