Today a fellow blogger posted her story with Ashtanga in a beautiful post called ‘From Anxiety to Ashtanga my story‘; click to read it.
At the end she wrote:
Have you ever suffered from anxiety? Has yoga helped you overcome any physical or mental ailments? I love to swap stories so please feel free to reach out to me.
I meant to type a short response, but ended up writing quite a bit, so I thought I would also share it here:
What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing.
I also feel that ashtanga is saving my life, in spite of myself. For reasons that I still don’t understand my body decided to be in a permanent state of cramps since a few years ago. It seems that before starting ashtanga six months ago, every single one of my muscles was always bunched up and doing effort even when no effort was needed. This, naturally caused me a lot of pain, physical and emotional. I would go through my day drained, dragging and extremely exhausted. I began losing mobility, I could barely look over my shoulder, I lacked the flexibility to stand up straight (I felt as though I was in a deep backbend when I tried, a crunchy and pinchy back bend) and my vertebrae went out of alignment. Years of muscle knots caused some scoliosis and a slipped disc.
One day, I sat down to meditate, and was confronted by the pitiful state of my body. If you would have asked me before that I would have told you that I was a healthy person. But I couldn’t even sit for a few minutes without tremendous pain and cramps. When sitting didn’t work, I tried to lie down face up, but my back was hurting as that was too much of a back bend for my contracted muscles. I realized I couldn’t lie flat on the ground, my lower back was trying to arch up, and my shoulders were rounding up off the ground. I tried to lie face down, and my neck wouldn’t move to either side so I could rest my head. I tried bringing my arms forward to support my head, but my shoulders wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in ages, my hands and legs weren’t receiving blood and I would (and still) wake up with terrible cramps, it was almost a relief to get out of bed even if I was exhausted.
I saw myself, that day, and I was heartbroken, and somehow I knew, I just knew that yoga was the answer. I looked up videos online and of course I found Kino McGregor, and I was so awed by her strength and control, that I was inspired to try ashtanga.
I decided to challenge myself to 30 days of yoga, every day, even if it was just 10 minutes a day. At first it was very very painful, but I was in pain anyway so I decided to stick to it.The first time I tried to go through primary, (following Kino’s Primary series video), I could hardly keep up, it seemed impossible, and moving my spine like that was very difficult. I gave up halfway through. Then I decided to get Kino’s introduction to ashtanga which seemed to be more feasible to understand. I got another video from another teacher (Mark Darby) and that one was a great step into the full primary, with the full primary performed by Mark, and modifications by Nicole. I stuck to that one until I learned the series (in my mind anyway).
The pain sort of morphed into an extending and healing sort of pain, instead of a cramped and pinchy sort of pain.
The pain began to diminish at around day 30, and I still remember there was one day when I was completely painless. I was lying on my side after doing yoga, I was self massaging my spine, feeling along the vertebrae, when without thinking I pushed one in and the pain dissipated. It was such a big relief, I started crying, I also realized that I didn’t know just exactly how much pain I was in until it left me. I woke up the next day just as cramped as before, but now I knew what I was working for. 30 days became 60, and 60 became a 100, and now I’m on day 182 since I began this journey. I’m not going to lie, I’ve fallen off the wagon for days/weeks at a time, and I’m still in a lot of pain. But at least during the 90 minutes that I practice ashtanga, the pain goes away, and I become limber and agile. I remember myself as I should be. Slowly, slowly my cold ‘at rest flexibility’ is reaching a place where I can stand up straight most of the time without pain. I still wake up with cramps, but my hands no longer feel like they have ants in them when I sleep. I actually get rest. I see the little changes, and I am motivated to move forward. The next step is to commit to a 6 day a week full practice.
Sorry for the long answer, I guess I needed to express this right now. I’ll post it to my blog as well,