There was that time I pretended to be a frog the entire double session practice of my Dad’s football team. I was 6 or 7, and the entire day I leapfrogged around the football field, no other mode of transit was allowed. There was hopscotch and jump rope during every recess. There were stretching festivals that went on for days, there were pogo stick contests that went on all summer. In high school there was competitive gymnastics and track & field. In college I was a heptathlete: 100 meter hurdles, long & high jump, 200 & 800 meter dash, shot put and javelin.
I have leapt and jumped for distance, height and beauty, ran as fast as possible for 200 meters, tried to run as fast as possible for 800 meters, tossed shot puts and threw spears as far as possible. I loved every sweaty, super fun minute of my kinesthetically enhanced youth.
A decade passes.
My gymnastics and track & field morphed into the study of the Alexander Technique and yoga. Decades pass. I do my practice. I study, contemplate, discover, reveal, let go of ideas, harness other ideas, feel love and joy, figure out what my version of life is. I do all of this through the vehicle of my body/mind complex via Alexander Technique and yoga.
Another decade passes…
My right hip has been hurting for a few years… well, it began in college, so really for well over three decades. I iced it, I got a firmer mattress. It would get better during the off season.
Okay, so now my hip has really been hurting for a few years. Maybe it was inflammation from all of the milk and cheese. I went vegan. It felt way better, for awhile. Maybe it was the depletion of estrogen in my system. I began a hormone therapy. It felt better for awhile. I began to notice a correlation between certain rotations of my hip/leg that hurt, not so much while I was doing it, but a few hours later. The empirical evidence was mounting to reveal the culprits were lotus and leg behind the head as the primary offenders.
I had worked so long and hard to get my beautiful bound lotus and even longer and harder to get leg behind head. But about three years ago I began be unable to deny the correlation between these specific moves and a super burning in my hip. Still I negotiated with my hip, knees, Earth, space,time, gravity, food, sleep, all other asana. That right hip still hurt, and it hurt way worse after lotus and leg behind the head. All of the sensory evidence was really starting to become next to impossible to ignore. I am stubborn.
It is difficult to explain the joy, peace, tenderness, timelessness inside lotus. It is delightful in there. But then the smack down. Burny hips, the limping, the envy of youth, the shame of regressing, the sentimental journeys, the wasted energy of denial of the aging process….
The fucking ego putting its tiny self before MYSELF as a whole.
It is so very difficult letting poses go, letting aspects of asana go.
There is sadness and loss.
It is time. Time for me to contend with the reality that I am NOT my asana practice of then. Mind you, I am not going to begin hacking away at aspects of my practice that I am able to do without summoning ten days of searing pain. There remains PLENTY of asana for the me of now. In fact, many aspects of my practice are improving, deepening, opening, more interesting than ever. I am starting to really get it. But damn it is hard letting go of lotus.
What I wouldn’t do for a shot of cartilage. A pill of some science breakthrough that grows my cartilage back on the head of my right femur. Where is that blinky wand tool that Dr. Beverly Crusher waves around that heals most everything super fast. It is perhaps in the future. For now, there is no magic medical wand that can restore my cartilage.
Luckily my teacher has also traveled around the sun more than 56 times. He too is feeling the feelings and dealing with reality of becoming and being an aging yogi.
“I am choosing to approach my studies as though there is particular value in allowing my practice to be a mirror that reflects to me the process of going from youth to elder. There are many days when it is hard to face my stiffness, tightness, slowness, and other increasing limits. Especially when I fall into thinking that what I do now is much more limited than what I used to do. At these times it would easy to stop taking my hatha yoga seriously but if I did give up I would merely be avoiding doing things that cause me to have to feel the feelings that arise from losing my youth and getting older. Many students who were serious when they were younger leave yoga behind altogether or branch off into less physical yogic pursuits such as meditation, strictly pranayama or bhakti yoga. While adding these other aspects of yoga is important, fitting, and beneficial it is also important not to move away from your hatha yoga practice to avoid facing your declining abilities and encroaching limits.” David Garrigues The Brave Aging Yoga
What will I do? I will feel the feelings that arise as I process the now truth of my now age. I will do the bravest thing, I will keep practicing.
Suzanne Ruth Faulkner aka Apollo 56.9
Thanking God for backbend and headstand.