Habits: Yoga

Every morning without fail, I turn over in bed and announce to no one in particular, "There is no fricking way I am doing yoga today!" Body aches and stiffness are often my morning "weather report" as I cross from dreaming into waking. However, less than thirty minutes later, you will almost always find me on the mat.

How did I turn my sun salutations into a habit? Here is a hint, it was not simply an exercise of will.

I have been taking yoga classes for over seven years. I started out in a class titled, "Special Conditions & Injuries." Often the stroke victims, car accident survivors and those suffering from debilitating diseases were some of the most flexible folks in the class, at least in comparison to me.

I was being out posed by an old man who limped in using *two* canes fer petes sake. It was pretty demoralizing initially, but I stuck with it.

Over time, the joints started moving ever so slowly till one day, where previously there had been nothing but pain, there was suddenly movement. And I was hooked.

Session after session, I moved slowly from special conditions to gentle yoga, to gentle yoga 1. I now notice others peering at me like I use to envy the old gentleman. And I reassure them that they too can one day ... touch their toes.

The reality is that each morning when I start, I too cannot touch my toes. From my forward bend I need only tilt my head to be in flat back pose, I am that stiff initially. But by the end, my palms often touch the floor.

The key was in figuring out what was an actual limit that needed respecting. At every difficult juncture, I ask myself, "Is this an edge or a limit?" If it is an edge, I proceed with prayer, with breath and with an open heart. If it is a limit, I stop, breathe, pray and back the hell up.

And it is that question that turned my irregular practice into a daily routine. I decided that my growing edge was creating a habit out of self care. Radical self care is the water that makes all my fiery work possible. It counterbalances my predatory and visionary nature with some much needed nourishment and grounding.

Sometimes building a habit is not a testament to will, sometimes it is instead a testament to restraint.


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