My 30 day yoga challenge

I have always thought that yoga wasn’t for me; I was neither flexible nor spiritual enough to enjoy it’s touted benefits. I favoured pilates, which I have been practicing now for over 14 years. It’s focus on core strength and disregard for any incense or chakras appealing to me.

My aversion to anything approaching meditative was not helped by a brief dalliance with Tai-Chi in my twenties, when my first lesson ended abruptly after I fainted dramatically during a simple breathing exercise into the arms of stranger.

However, over the last twelve months, I have begun to fully suffer the effects of the ankle fusion on the damaged leg and it’s overworked partner. The calf muscle of the fused leg has all but wasted away and constant cramps now plague my foot and lower leg. My good leg suffers in its turn, with arthritic pain in my good knee, hip and lower back as a result of five years of a limping uneven gait.

Whilst I continued with swimming, walking and Pilates, I needed a way to stretch out my muscles and encourage flexibility in my joints. I kept coming back to the idea of yoga.

So at the end of 2018, I signed up to an online 30 day yoga challenge, figuring a month was enough to see if it could benefit me and at least I wouldn’t have lost any money (or dignity) if it turned out that yoga with an ankle fusion was actually impossible…

I can do this, I have a yoga mat, I’m wearing yoga trousers, I know how to say Namaste…

..oh bugger, we are starting with Child’s Pose. My knee doesn’t bend that far and my toes get in the way. I’m going to need some cushions.

A cushion under my ankle and one under my thighs means I can now I sit back, but she’s already onto Downward Dog. How the hell can I do Downward Dog when my ankle doesn’t bend and I can’t rest my weight on my toes?

I am going to need a lot more cushions..

A quick trip into TK Maxx and a rummage through their optimistic January sports section revealed two yoga blocks and even more excitingly, two knee pads. Now that I am going to be resembling a geriatric gardener, I am even more pleased that I am not going to be in a public class.

Today’s thirty minute video ending up taking me an hour with the continual pausing to readjust my cushions, but at least I managed a Downward Dog by propping my heels up on a yoga block.

The knee pads are game changers, I only wish I could attach them to my knees permanently.

I have been doing pretty well so far, I haven’t even rolled my eyes when prompted to say Namaste at the end of each session… too much.

Apparently I should be achieving flow by now., unforrtunately, there is nothing about the continual rearrangement of cushions and knee pads that encourages flow.

It turns out that today’s practise is about deep breathing and in my kitchen I don’t have the luxury of a passing stranger to catch me when I pass out.

At least in Downward Dog my head is already close to the floor.

I’ve missed a couple of days so instead of a gentle 25 minutes, I’m going to have to cram three sessions together. One of them is called Meditate, perhaps I can skip that bit?

I am a proper yoga badass! I completed all three videos and even broke a sweat, which I was suitably proud of until I realised that actually it was just that the underfloor heating in the kitchen had turned itself on.

Things I have learnt so far.

  1. I have no sense of balance when standing on my bad leg.
  2. Yoga leggings can pass as outerwear if a confident air of ‘just off to a yoga class’ is exuded.
  3. My lung capacity is woefully inadequate for the length of most exercises, so I spend an awful ot of time holding my breath.
  4. The bits of me that I can see reflected in the oven door look pretty good, I’m definitely now channelling more yogi than pensioner weeding the flowerbeds.

I have hit an impasse with some of the positions. I cannot figure out for the life of me how to compensate for the lack of ankle mobility in squats and lunges.

Today was the first time I looked at a position and decided not to even attempt it. This is supposed to improve the mobility in my leg not pop the remaining fragments of my kneecap off.

On the plus side, I have bought a new pair of yoga leggings which reach way past my belly button and hold everything in, so that is a win.

I did it! Thirty days and more than fifteen hours of yoga.

Over the past month I have experienced more ache in my ankle, but that is to be expected when even sitting cross legged is a challenge, but the knee has been surprisingly resilient and my leg cramps have really eased off.

Some of the positions became easier as the month progressed and I became more confident that I could at least try even the complicated looking ones. I was not successful at all of them and I am going to speak to a proper yoga instructor about suitable adaptations for those.

I may not have uncovered a spiritual side of myself so far, but what I have discovered over the last month, is that most problems can be overcome with a bit of imagination and a whole lot of cushions.

Namaste.

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