WoYoPracMo, Day 20.
And it's also Day 365 of my Astanga yoga practice. :-)
To be honest, the day sort of snuck up on me. The original premise of this blog was to practice 365 days of Astanga yoga as an experiment. I didn't like Astanga yoga and had always avoided it. I figured that by doing something I didn't like for 365 days, I would experience some sort of exponential personal growth. I was curious to see if the practice would grow on me (it grew) and if I could make some discernible progress in the series (I definitely progressed).
In the past year-and-a-half, I've been through so many lows, highs, and obstacles. That first summer, I worked hard to build strength and struggled with my tight hips and hamstrings. In the fall, I started to fall in love with the practice and became very dedicated to the full Primary Series as my practice. The hips and hamstrings started to open up. I did the full Primary Series every day in January for WoYoPracMo and felt stronger than ever before. In the spring and summer, I reached a pinnacle of sorts and made huge leaps in my practice, discovering a depth in the poses that I never imagined I would find.
Then it all fell to pieces. An illness in the early fall took the wind out of my sails and decimated my practice. I was on bed rest for a month, and struggled to even do a modified Primary Series when I finally returned to Astanga. I took long breaks between practices and never quite returned to my six-day practice. When I started my practice in earnest again, it felt like I was starting over.
Since then, I've been working my back to a full Primary Series slowly and this month, WoYoPracMo gave me a reason to start practising regularly again. Gradually, the practice has come back to me. I've lost a few poses, but for the most part, I feel strong.
For my 365th day, I was curious to compare my present experience of Astanga to my experience when I first started. So I unrolled my mat, popped the Beryl Bender Birch 'Power Yoga' DVD into the player and did the full Primary with Beryl for old time's sake.
As I moved through the practice, I thought about my first few weeks of Astanga and realised how far I've come. It's a completely different practice for me now. I'm definitely stronger, more flexible and I can do every pose in the series (well, the bind is gone in Supta K, for now, but I'll get it back). Backbends are so much better, even in their current state. My headstand is transformed. The pace of the Beryl DVD, which seemed incredibly rushed when I first started, now seems easy and leisurely!
So...have I made the progress that I thought I would after 365 days? Probably not. But this project stopped being about the 'destination' a long time ago. There is no destination. Every single day is a unique struggle and journey. My Astanga practice has helped me establish a strong daily yoga practice, which may be its greatest gift.
For those of you who are wondering, I will be continuing with Astanga yoga, though I'll definitely take the opportunity to explore other yoga systems during the course of my daily practice. I'm really looking forward to adding some variety.
New goal: After the conclusion of WoYoPracMo, I would like to maintain a daily practice for the rest of 2009.