That statement hardly seems like it could be true. How could a full-contact extreme sport have been gentler on my body than stretching, flowing and breathing my way through yoga classes? Don’t get me wrong, a bout would leave me feeling like a had been hit by a Mack truck. I proudly bore the soreness along with rink rash (in the pattern of my fishnets) and bruises unnumbered, all with a huge grin on my face, because I was having the time of my life. Although I won’t claim this is the norm, the only lasting blow to my body has been weak knees from falling on them for all those years (better your knees than your tailbone, amiright derby girls?!) If you ask most any of my teammates, you will see how the sport can certainly if not likely bring broken tailbones, ACL tears, broken collarbones, dislocated shoulders and even *wince* busted teeth. I attribute my relatively injury-free experience to the cross training I did to stay strong and the utterly non-serious way in which I trained so seriously hard with my team.
I had a blast at every practice. I loved the fundamentals, the drills, the scrimmages, the equipment maintenance, the “strategery”, the nightly goof off time skating like a robot to Mr. Roboto and like a teenaged girl to I Think We’re Alone Now(the Tiffany version duh). I even loved the nights in someone’s living room watching the most recent recorded bout tediously pouring over every detail. And man, did I love the after parties, that were not complete without leg wrestling (think arm wrestling but with our strongest appendages- our superlative legs).
LESSON ONE: Sutra II.48 There will come a time when opposition and preference no longer harass you.
The lesson here is that I did not skip to only the good stuff. There was not way to ignore the foundation of roller skating. I didn’t pick and choose when I showed up. I could not be rostered for a bout if I did not meet my attendance requirements and I could not serve in my role as trainer if I did not attend those insanely long board meetings.Learn to have fun in it all…or try out neutral when fun is not on the table. Most of us find yoga as adults and there are less and less times in adulthood where we seek out new things and grow new skills.That’s pretty awesome of you-a pat on the back is in order! But you will encounter some uncomfortable times, whether they are physical, emotional or otherwise. Moving our bodies makes us feel good and we don’t have to be so serious about that. When you step into the yoga room, it’s not the time to sort out all the world’s problems. In fact, if you’re not paying keen attention to what you are doing, you are missing the foundational learning, the moments when your mind becomes conscious of what your body is doing.
After 6 years in the sport, I retired from roller derby andthrew myself into yoga. I wanted to learn everything I could about yoga right away and I wanted to achieve the “all-star” capability that I was accustomed to.I practiced daily and found my flexibility quickly growing. I willed postures like Hanumanasana and Prasarita Padottanasana C to happen right away. I was striving with the same fervor of competition that I was used to, but I didn’t recognize it wrapped in peaceful breaths and yoga pants. My brain had it wrong and my body would soon find out. I tore my right hamstring from over extending at the attachment and a year later when I still didn’t get it, I tore the left. Yoga teaches us that we are all connected. So is everything in our body, so from this initial cause, my body made alignment changes and compensations to its foundation. First when twisting and now at whim, my ribs pop out (sublux from the spine). And the ‘itis that pains me the most currently is psoitis, deep inflammation of the psoas and its partner-in-crime, low back pain. Did I hit all the common yoga injuries or what?! Nailed it.
LESSON TWO:Sutra I.14 You must cultivate your practice over time, with devotion. This practice must be done correctly, for then a firm foundation is laid.
There is no golden ticket to the escalator when everyone else is taking the stairs. And if there were this magical escalator, you should be skeptical of it’s fortitude.
Now, with ego in humble check, I have a very different practice. I listen to my body; really listen to the valuable information it gives me. I try to accept the information I am getting, even if I don’t like it. I practice patience, persistence and compassion when spending more time coaxing open the space for a pose and less time relaxing in it. And I try not to compare my practice to what it used to be but just love it for what it is. I am a teacher and I practice frequently in the studio where I teach. I roll out my mat right alongside my students. I believe the old me would have felt the need to look the part and put on a yoga showaccompanied by only the challenging version of each pose. But today I find it quite comforting to be in the presence, the open-mindedness and open-heartedness of my dear students who are just there doing the same thing I am- learning about their bodies and themselves and doing the very best they can.
LESSON THREE: Sutra I.33 Learn to keep your feelings inbalance, whether something feels good or it hurts. When you feel resistance, cultivate friendliness; when there is frustration, create compassion; when inadequate or jealous emotions arise, invite happiness and goodwill; and where there is aversion, let there be acceptance.
This yoga sutra is outright telling us how to deal and heal all situations we will come across. I mean, thank you yoga! To describe it as many translations do, we possess four keys to use when we encounter four types of locks. These locks might be our own attitudes or the attitudes of others.Using the appropriate key will put out those fires and usher in neutrality or even joy. In other words, you don’t put out fire with fire.
Keeping the wisdom of the sutras close to me, keys to what I may encounter on my yoga mat and out there in the world, I feel armed and ready to take it all on: Pads velcroed tight, mouth guard in place, and helmet fastened- skating my way through life.