When I first started practicing yoga, the monkey pose/full splits/hanumanasana was something I wanted to achieve. In addition to attending yoga classes daily, I would work on hip openers and stretches for my hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. I was very eager and desperate to make it happen that I did not realise I was pushing myself too far, until one morning while I was working on the usual stretches, I heard a loud pop at the back of my left leg, which was followed by a sharp pain. The dreadful thought of not being able to walk forever popped into my mind. For the following days, I had to drag my left leg and walk slowly. Occasionally I would lose sensation in that leg. I was forced to take a break from yoga for 6 months and those were the longest 6 months I have ever experienced! Luckily, no doctors, surgery or physiotherapy was needed for me to recover. All I had to do is let my body rest and heal on its own.
One important lesson I took away from this experience is the power of acceptance. Had I accepted the fact that my body needed time and practice to be able to do full splits, I would not have injured myself. Some would equate acceptance with weakness and vulnerability, as if one has given up on trying. I believe acceptance is the complete opposite; it provides you an opportunity to understand, learn and grow. When I have accepted that the hamstrings on my left leg is not as flexible as my right, I started to develop a more conscious approach towards my practice. Instead of pushing myself every day, I tried to listen to my body and learn to stop whenever it is telling me to stop.
To me, yoga is about accepting your body for how it is and not to criticise it. Sometimes, I still find myself focusing on the imperfections, especially when I look through photos taken during my practice. During those moments, I would remind myself not to compare my poses to the photos found online. I trust that progress will come if I keep practicing constantly and consciously.
Join Louise Yu every Wednesday for Vinyasa flow yoga 8.15pm at Studio iO.