this month i’ve put a lot of thought and effort into looking at my yoga practice, taking inventory of what poses are making me feel stronger and those that i’ve just been pushing myself through. 

i’ve always been the “super flexible” one that gets cast into the “she can do any yoga pose she tries” category… well, wrong. if you know yoga well, you know that often times the most flexible students are those that have to work the hardest at backing off so we don’t injure ourselves (especially our lower backs). on the other hand, we often have the continuous challenge of finding the sensation in a pose that others feel often and easily. i’ve gotten pretty good at the later, but to be honest, i was never one to pull back, even amid lower back pain… until now.

as a “type a” yogi, this is all easier said than done. since i’ve been diagnosed with ra and the pain in my hands and feet have almost ceased completely, i have made some specific alterations to my practice:

wearing rings: sometimes this is okay at night, but in the morning in the humidity of the studio, i find myself removing my rings as soon as i get to my mat. it keeps the blood from restricting and my fingers don’t feel swollen.

fingertips: in poses where going up on fingertips instead of flat hands is suggested, i usually ignore and grab a block to heighten instead. although my fingers are pretty strong, its not comfortable for me, even if it may have nothing to do with ra, so i just don’t do it anymore. DON’T BE SCARED TO GRAB THE BLOCK. you’re not less of a yogi for doing so.

backbending: practicing with ra has made me insanely aware of how i treat my body parts, and my low back is something i’ve always “dipped into” due to my natural flexibility there. now not only do i notice that adding a slight backbend into my crensent lunge or warrior one causes that horrid grinding scenation in my back, but i don’t even let myself take the pose to the point where i can feel pain. i just don’t try. if we do three belly backbends, two camels, three bridges, and two wheels in class, i will do half of them. maybe. there is nothing wrong with sitting hips on a block… and i don’t even put the block on the heighest side.

a tip for those who struggle with camel: you’ll learn it’s one of the most comfortable backbends to do if do it properly and push your tailbone under and forward. think length upward from pelvis to heart, not curve.

the curve is impossible to avoid in wheel, even if you can walk your feet out away from your hands and get more length on your tip toes, i still feel the pinch. i’ve learned the best way to practice wheel is to walk my legs out completely straight with pointed toes (fish pose legs) and think tailbone, tailbone, tailbone.

knees knees knees: just as much as i’m aware of my lower back, i am now overly aware of my knees. forward folds are no longer about how straight i can get my legs, warrior two and triangle legs can still support me and look beautiful with a slight bend. however we got the idea of that locked knees is the goal, i do not know, but i’ve been trying to break this habit along with express the importance of it with my students. soft joints, people, soft joints!

balancing poses: holy. lowback. pain. i’ve probably always had it, but never noticed it to the extent i have in the last few weeks. airplane KILLS. warrior three, unthinkable. i just busy myself with eagle or a forward fold until half moon is called, which feels good, but i do notice a bit of grinding in my low back. i don’t miss having these in my practice, and i really don’t miss the lingering tension in my back after practice.

all that said, i’ve been feeling great at practice now that i’ve backed off a bit. i’m also not practicing more than 3 times per week… which is fine because my schedule with teaching and going to work and having a social life just doesn’t allow for more than that anyway. feeling good. lovin’ life.

in chicago right now for lollapolooza. checking music festival off the list of things to do before i’m 30. boom.