Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bending Over Backwards To Help Myself

For eight months, I've been dipping my toes into Hatha Yoga. This was first suggested to me well over a year ago, after I'd strained my left foot, and had been walking on crutches for a few days. At my GP's suggestion, I went to the university's sports injuries clinic, where a podiatrist evaluated my gait, and prescribed my orthotic insoles. These provide support for my horribly overpronated feet, and enable me to walk and exercise without overloading my joints. She also suggested I try yoga, which I'd been considering in the background, the same way I consider building a rockery, or trying sushi. A few nervous months later, I screwed up my courage and turned up to a local yoga class.

We gather at 6:45 in the morning, once a week, for an hour, and our instructor guides us through a selections of exercises, and postures, or asanas. Hatha yoga is specifically, the practice of asanas, rather than some of the other paths of yoga, which focus on philosophy, diet, or meditation. My initial experiences were relief, that newcomers were welcomed without fuss, and excitement, that these stretches and poses could leave me feeling so relaxed and invigourated. This was soon tempered with a self-conciousness that I wasn't quite so adept or spry as the rest of the predominantly female group.

Nevertheless, I've persevered, having passed through ambition, and learned to focus on what I'm capable of in the present, and find yoga an essential part of my routine. I have my own mat at home, and make moments to run through a sequence of asanas appropriate to my mood, energy, and needs. It works very well, for example, on a resteless Sunday night while I'm distracted by worries about the week ahead. I've found I can remain in what would previously been uncomfortable positions for far longer than before, a perfect example being squatting down while tidying the attic. My aches and pains are in retreat, and I do genuinely feel far younger than before.I take particular delight in the headstand, or Sirsasana, known as the king of postures. I just couldn't do it at first, and now I can rest on my crown for over a minute, without a supporting wall in sight.

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