Guest post by Debbie Philp
My long-time yoga teacher, Tracey Ulshafer of One Yoga and Wellness Center in Hightstown, New Jersey, often told us that breakthroughs in her yoga practice happened when she was too tired to tell herself she couldn’t. After having plenty of my own exhaustion-inspired breakthroughs, I’ve taken that to heart and shared it. My first lift-off into Bakasana came at the end of a long vinyasa workshop that followed a sleepless night of riding trains to New York City and back. (Don’t ask.)
Like pushing through the “wall” when running, at some point during a physically demanding yoga practice your body decides thinking is using too many precious resources, and redirects them to your muscles. Your brain still works, it’s just gone on autopilot. And you don’t have the energy to say “I can’t.”
Moving through exhaustion
There was a time not too long ago when I’d been exhausted for months thanks to an inner ear issue, and I hadn’t been asking much of my body. For weeks I’d been relegated to supine, non-dizzy-making poses. And, since it was still pretty cold here in the North Country, most of those supine poses had been practiced under my fluffy quilt…which is on my bed.
Anyway, one day I did something a fiesty friend told me to do – I took a “f*ck it all pill” and had myself a real, physical, sweat-producing yoga practice. I practiced Surya Namaskar with no dizziness, no nausea, no ear pain. Woohoo! Then I took advantage of my recovering equilibrium to play with a home practice sequence I had torn out of Yoga Journal months before.
I was enjoying myself, thinking of ways I could adapt the sequence for my varying levels of flow classes until I wore myself out too much to think. When the paper said Bakasana (crow pose), I flew. Then I read the next step. (Yes, while balancing on my hands I was reading from the magazine page. Yoga does have its perks.) It said to draw my chest forward and float my feet back into Chaturanga Dandasana. Countless times before, when a yoga teacher said “jump back from crow,” I had quietly put my feet down and stepped back into plank.
But that day I had taken a “f*ck it all pill” and I had made myself too tired to say “I can’t.” So I did what it said. And it worked…almost. I went a bit sideways and only one foot found my mat. But the second time it worked just fine. And the third, and the fourth. Then my brain woke up and sent me into Balasana.
When my forehead hit the floor in that child pose, a big chunk of something (use your imagination) slid down the side of my throat. I swallowed before I realized what I was doing. Gross. But when I swallowed, my ear didn’t make the crunching sound I’d gotten used to hearing. So I swallowed again, just to be sure. I’m not positive it opened completely, but something definitely changed in my ear.
Yoga fairy dust
At the Colorado Yoga Journal Conference in 2008, the great Ashtanga teacher David Swenson told us that we would, at times, be visited by the yoga fairies who would sprinkle us with fairy dust and we would suddenly be able to do whatever asana had been eluding us. He also pointed out that the yoga fairies had a sick sense of humor, so after achieving that challenging asana, we’d probably not be able to do it again the next day. So I wasn’t surprised when I woke up the next day and my ear was cracking and I couldn’t jump back from crow to low plank.
But that day, when I was too tired to say “I can’t,” I had it.
Debbie Philp, the founder of True North Yoga, sees the pursuit of wellness as a sacred journey that reveals the healer within. She offers yoga and shamanic healing practices to help you discover your innate power, your inner wisdom, and your ability to nurture yourself and others. Debbie is a E-RYT500 yoga teacher and a Shamanic Reiki Master Teacher. She teaches yoga classes, leads yoga teacher training, instructs Shamanic Reiki Levels 1 and 2, and offers individual healing sessions. Visit her website: www.DebbiePhilp.com