Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Mental Health Holiday

Fair warning: This is a whiny post.

Back in my corporate days, today would have been called a 'mental health holiday'. I cancelled absolutely *everything* - day classes, afternoon classes and evening classes. In eight years of teaching, I've never done this - not even when I was sick.

I'm good at toughing things out, but lately, I've felt felt like I'm at the end of my rope. I needed to take a step back.

So I slept in. My morning yoga practice consisted of an hour of restorative yoga from the Bobby Clennell book, followed by a salt bath, followed by a long nap. I spent the rest of day in my jammies, sitting in the window seat, reading a book with Princess Fur curled up on my lap. In the evening, I rode out to the east end and took a vinyasa class with one of my long-time teachers and friends.

The entire day was very easy and soothing. It was exactly what I needed.

Lately, I've been in this sad little headspace. I'm feeling glum, uncertain and adrift. I'm probably a bit depressed. Part of it is due to the time of year. I've also been experiencing a 'crisis of confidence' in my teaching recently. And part of the blame for the funk rests squarely on the gimpy shoulder.

Yeah, I know, I know...being depressed about the state of my practice is SO typical. Everyone is doing it. I'm not trying to jump on a bandwagon, honest. But damn, I HATE this injury. The torn hamstring was never this annoying!! Or was it? I can't remember...*grump*

Sometimes I wonder, with all the modifications I'm doing, when the practice stops being Astanga and starts being something else entirely. At the beginning of the week, I experienced *another* set-back with the shoulder and I had to cut Urdhva Dhanurasana. Now I'm all nostalgic for the 'good old days' when UD was merely 'uncomfortable'. If the injury doesn't kill me, the irony might!

Anyway, enough of that. Here's a little overview of my Week of Blah:

After two years of yoga-every-day-no-matter-what, I'm finally taking a genuine day off each week. On Sunday, I did no yoga. The 'yoga streak' is officially over! I'm really enjoying the weekly respite and to be honest, it's well-timed. I really need it.

But I'm starting to hate Monday practices because after a day off, I feel SO stiff. I practised my Primary and 2nd series poses, but everything was gummy and tender. I tried to do Urdhva Dhanurasana but found it very painful for my shoulder and had to stop at two backbends.

On Tuesday, I decided to replace Urdhva Dhanurasana with hangbacks. No dice - the hangbacks felt yucky. I reverted to a variation of UD that I learned from my Montreal teachers, keeping my hands off the floor. But it all felt like a big waste of time.

Wednesday was hot yoga day. It was a relief to do a practice without modifications and I soaked up the heat like a happy sponge. Everything is going pretty well with those postures, though I couldn't seem to balance in Padangusthasana. I brought my head to my knee in Dandayamana-Janushirasana, though, and held the balance. Yay! I treated my favourite hot yoga teacher, Peanut, to some cookies for Valentines Day.

The cookies were actually a bright spot in an otherwise blah week. I spent Sunday baking and in the end, I had 108 cookies! (not just yummy, but auspicous!) I spent the rest of the week handing out cookies to friends, students (and in a few cases, complete strangers).

"Happy Valentine's Day" It was so much fun!

Today, of course, I took my 'mental health day'. I really enjoyed the evening vinyasa class. It's a good reminder of how far I've come in my yoga practice, regardless of how I'm feeling about it at the moment. This is not a particularly challenging class for me, but moving through the sequence, guided by the teacher's voice, was as comforting as being wrapped in a soft, love-worn quilt. On a day that was all about soothing myself, this capped it off nicely.

When I told my teacher about the injury she laughed and said "Your right shoulder, my left shoulder!" Apparently, this is a very trendy injury! All the coolest practitioners are getting it! Between the two of us, we have one set of healthy shoulders. Maybe we should just team up!

Tomorrow is a Moon Day (I'm planning to go to the noon class at Hot Central). I won't be doing another Astanga practice until Saturday. Perhaps by then (I hope), I'll feel better.

On a bright note, I managed two Urdhva Dhanurasana in the vinyasa class tonight. I wasn't sure I would be able to pull them off, but figured it couldn't hurt (too badly) to try. The teacher offered an interesting variation for coming into the pose. She instructed us to lift our heels before pressing up (and then to drop them). For some reason, this reduced the pressure on my shoulder coming up. I'm looking forward to trying it in my regular practice.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Yyogini said...

Good to hear you're taking care of your mental health!! It's such an important thing that most people are too dismissive to do for themselves. It makes a huge difference!

Micqui said...

The lifting of the heels is such a nice way of going up in UD, my teacher teaches that, much less pressure and somehow you create more length throughout the body before settling in!

Kevin said...

Having at last had a day off it will stop you having the mental pressure to keep on forcing yourself top do practice to keep the record up. I know having the choice to practice or not taken away from me recently was frustrating but also good in that it kinda forced me to do the things I always promise myself I will do but never get round to because of wanting to do practice.

I gotta ask how do you do a UD with keeping the hands off the floor?

Love the cookies

Boodiba said...

I had a problem right shoulder for TWO YEARS! Maybe I should send you info on my systemic enzymes... I'll do that this weekend if you're interested. But remind me! I could just email you a picture.

Also... my pain cure book recommends an addition of 1 cup of baking soda to the 2 cups (he had the same measurements as me) of epsom salts. I've been doing that since on my fix my knee regime. Sometimes I slather my body in castor oil first, in addition!

Then once I'm dry it's a coat of sesame oil :)

(And they say I'm obsessive)

sereneflavor said...

Maybe incorporating a weekly thorough rest day can be part of the healing therapy. And maybe become a regenerative ritual both at the cellular/muscular & mind/spirit level, sort of like your very smart tech breaks.

Sarah said...

peace,peace,peace. aren't we really just seeking to find ourselves on and off the mat... and when we find imperfection it feels like a limitation and we are faced with the real deal: unconditional acceptance is not always the result of all our practice-practice-practice. sometimes we need reminders of where we are, and the shoulder is such an excellent teacher (mine too-- right side).

elevating the heels in UD seems to activate more subtle core lift that takes the strain of hoist out of the shoulders... glad it helped a little.

there are days when I can and days when I cannot use rotations in my shoulder...bringing forth careful listening and letting go of goals. This is where any set practice sequence seems to invite disaster..unless modified.

so glad you took a day to step out of the patterns and be relaxed.