I just completed my eighth month of yoga. In the course of August, I felt a shift in my practice. Reaching the floor with my fingertips is standard now. The only variable is how much pain I feel in my hamstrings. I have been pleased to note on more and more days that while there's always pain, it continues to lessen.
Most days I do the yoga in the morning. If there is going to be more pain and stiffness, it is generally in the mornings. My evening yoga benefits from a day's worth of movement and activity.
The tightness in my hips seems to be what causes my pain in my hamstrings. It is believed that the hips carry the weight of one's emotions. No wonder my hips and hamstrings hurt.
I noticed a curious thing as I did yoga after the weekend away with friends. I had had a really good, cleansing cry as I made my Torn Edge collage and afterwards my hips and hamstrings seemed looser and less painful. I noted it on my calendar. I've begun to mentally track my emotions and my hip and hamstring flexibility. It does seem to follow that on the days where I feel less bogged down by stuff I am wading through and life in general, my yoga practice includes more flexibility and less pain.
My daily yoga practice is also reinforcing the idea that small consistent efforts over time do result in change. I am only doing four sun salutations a day. The practice takes no more than five minutes most days—depending on how slow I choose to breathe through each pose. But the daily practice is showing up in the muscle tone in my arms and legs. When I flex my arms, my biceps and triceps appear defined and solid. When I am in downward dog, I can see definition around my shins, knees, and quadriceps.
My body image continues to improve. I am owning my skinniness in a way I never have before. I continue to see strength where I used to only see skin and bone. I walk with my shoulders back, my chin lifted. I own the space that I occupy as never before. This feels good and healthy and right.
If I wanted to I could cross off “Improve my forward bend” from the 4040 list. It's already improved from the bent knee stance that I started with in January. But I know now from experience that where I am today is not where I will be in January as the 4040 list concludes. This is another metaphor for life that I am embracing. The planner in me wants to know what's around the bend, but life doesn't work like that. I have to trust that I am pointed in the right direction and that I can handle whatever comes my way.
This daily yoga practice will continue beyond January 2016. I am certain of that. And I will continue to track my progress and set new goals and watch as day-by-day I move closer to the next one.