So here's a list of some of my favorite yoga moments and things from my 365 day personal challenge. This summary is by no means complete, but it's actually taking me some time to sift through my thoughts/reactions to the whole personal challenge, and I'm finding that my thoughts crystalize as I respond to people's questions. So ask me some questions dammit, and I'll spill more answers....
Favorite all-time pose: Extended side angle pose (parsvakonasana). Life changing. The hip opening! The involvement of the muscles that run along the side of the torso and hip! The stretch of the inner thigh! Gold, I tell you.
Best new discoveries: a) Sufi grinds. You haven't tried them? Oh, you should. Sit cross-legged and swirl around on your sit bones to loosen your hips. Thank me later.
b) Twisting Bent Leg Downward Dog: LOVE LOVE LOVE the gentle pull this creates on the front of the quad of the raised leg and the connection to the hip and back muscles. I literally can't do yoga without doing this pose.
Most dreaded pose: Eagle. Blech. No improvement physically--or mentally. If I keep my hips level, I fall out.
Best pelvic floor trainer: Goddess pose. I could just hang out here and do kegel exercises all day.
Best stress releaser: Forward fold. About a third of the way through my challenge (early summer, when I was doing a lot of Bikram), my lower back started to do this weird release thing, where my lower spine does its own chiropractic adjustment--and it feels AWESOME. Forward fold can get me there, too. I do it a lot.
Biggest achievement: Learning to practice on my own. Wherever, whenever. The first few times I did it, I felt like a total fraud. I didn't know what order to do the poses in. I didn't know how to "build." But now I totally can...and I actually prefer to be on my own from time to time. The problem with home practice is that I don't really challenge myself. My heart rate doesn't rise--and I certainly don't chose poses I hate. But the upshot is that home practice definitely helped me explore my own body and what suits it best. When I do it, I hold poses for longer; I go deeper. I get to know myself.
Collateral Damage: I now have a bone spur (hard lump) in the middle of my left palm. I can just hear myself in the future: "Yep, kids. That's mom's ol' yoga injury acting up again."
Most important piece of gear--especially for hot yoga: a headband. I have bad yoga hair. It's too short to pull back and yet long enough to get in my face. I love Lululemon's because 1) a got a few for free 2) the ORIGINAL Lulu shop in is my 'hood and 3) the owners live on my block.
Biggest A-HA! moments occurred in: savasana. Lying on the mat after practice is also where I plotted out my novel, planned my days and made sense of my life.
Pose that makes me feel most like a yogi: Easy pose with my heels lined up infront of one another--or "accomplished pose." It's simple, but sitting in it forces my back to be tall and my knees to the ground. It gets me centered, and I actually feel like I know what I'm doing.
Biggest disappointment: (Just being honest here) My stomach still isn't flat. Not that that was the goal of my challenge (it honestly wasn't), but it sure would have been a nice bonus.
Recently, someone said to me, "Wow, you just did a year of daily yoga?! That's probably more training than half the teachers around. You should TOTALLY teach!" But the truth is I don't really feel like I learned that much about yoga. There were so many styles I wanted to explore but never got to because the classes were far away or at inconvenient times. And when I compare myself to other students and the instructors (very un-yoga like, I know. But oh, well.), I still feel like I've got a long way to go. (Grrr. My front thigh isn't parallel to the floor in Warrior II. I still don't grab for my ankles in Camel Pose. And a fully-reclined Hero Pose? Please. In my dreams.)
What I *did* learn about, however, was myself, right now, at this point in my life. I've learned that I don't need to be in a class, glancing at (and constantly comparing myself to) other students to actually find the motivation to practice. I've learned that I don't need to push (and by that I mean punish) myself--that gentle movements and stretches still have benefits. I've learned that I am the best judge of what's right for me and my body.
I've learned to do yoga.