Vinyasa is my go-to style of yoga. Vinyasa links breath with movement—inhale/move, exhale/ move—that gradually leads the practitioner to a “peak” pose. When a teacher asks students to “take a vinyasa”, it also means to move through the transitional sequence of plank to chaturanga to upward-facing dog and then downward-facing dog. This transition resets the body, allowing for the work of the prior series of poses to sink in, so to speak. The vinyasa flow is an integral part of this style of yoga, but it’s also the part that sometimes gets taken for granted. The sequence of poses is often fairly rigorous and downward dog is a considered a resting pose, so students will often rush through the flow without much regard to alignment in order to get to down dog. However, it’s vital to move mindfully in order to reap the most benefit of the transition and avoid shoulder injuries.
I’ve always been physically strong. When I was five years old, I helped my grandpa cut down a cherry tree. He sawed off the branches and I hauled the pieces back to the patio. I overheard my grandpa tell his friend that he had never seen such a strong, hardworking little kid before. I’m no longer anywhere near five years old, but that one little sentence shaped a big part of who I am today and how I live my life. So when I started feeling a twinge in my shoulder in chaturanga, I simply powered through. I can take it. I’m strong, right? Over time though, I couldn’t power through any more. The twinge became a chronic pain that I could no longer ignore and that’s when the words of my yoga teachers started to sink in. They would always give us an option to go through vinyasa or not, depending on whether it suits the body that day. Even though it has bruised my ego, I’ve had to change the way I do my flow in order to heal my shoulder. Instead of powering through the pain in straight legged chaturanga, I now have to go to my knees to lower down, go through a small cobra instead of up dog and then push back to my knees and up into down dog. Sometimes, I’ll give in and hang out in down dog instead of opting for the flow and sometimes I simply sit back in child’s pose if I’ve overdone it. This injury has taught me that I don’t have to be strong ALL the time. I can be vulnerable and no one will judge or think less of me for it. It’s humbling, but also a relief. It’s also a great lesson to put into practice in my day-to-day life.
I’ve often heard the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. This saying definitely applies to my work life. I’ve been searching for the right work all of my adult life. I’ve tried many different things that I thought would interest me as well as make money. My last job held a lot of promise. I was working for a new small business, manufacturing herbal products. On paper, it was the perfect job for me and it was…for a few months. Then I began to feel, as I had in all my other jobs, unappreciated, undervalued, unfulfilled, and restless for change. I powered through for six more months. I kept believing that if I stuck with it a while longer, that emotional twinge would get better. However, like my shoulder twinge, it only got worse. I knew that I had to change the way I was doing things in order to find the work that satisfied my restless soul. So, after ten months of powering through, I quit my job. And this time, as my favorite YouTube astrologer says, I “have to do it different.” I realize now that I can no longer keep doing things the same way expecting different results. The question is, exactly how does one go about doing it different? I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take some time off to do some soul searching. I’ve found that, for me, doing it different means that I have to give up my belief that all I have to offer is my strength, my ability to work hard, and the perseverance to power my way through every situation, no matter how unhappy I am. I know now that I can’t just have a job that pays the bills; I need work that makes my soul happy. And to be happy, my soul needs to create. It wants to be seen and heard. It wants to be valued. It wants me to quit believing my old hand-me-down beliefs, and pay attention to the twinges that are guiding me toward what I need to be happy. I’ve decided that this time, I won’t rush through the transition out of fear. I’ll move mindfully and in alignment with my soul’s desire—maybe even take a nice long child’s pose—so that I can do it different and heal my life.
Author Stefanie Jones
Photo by Stefanie Jones