Not what you do, it’s the way that you do it…..
….and that’s what gets results. In the words of those great philosophers Bananarama — remember them?! Anyway, despite being pop icons of the 80’s, I think they had a point.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been thinking about integrity — as one of the pillars of Forrest Yoga, I wanted to figure out what it meant to me and on and off the mat. In my experience of big corporations, most have integrity as part of their brand make-up, basically to show people that they don’t screw people over. As valid as that is, it’s only one side of integrity.
My Mum always said to me, “if you’re going to do a job, do it properly”. I’ve totally carried that with me throughout my life — I’ve always worked hard and been conscientious, at least in relation to my professional life and with others. But, it wasn’t until I started practicing yoga that I realised that I didn’t really live by that mantra when it came to me.
Running before you can walk
So in the beginning when I got on the yoga mat — coming from high-impact sports, highly competitive environments and the continual struggle to have to prove yourself in your job — the way I pushed myself outside of work was totally reflected in my yoga practice. Being sporty and having done a couple of years of dance training at Uni, I kind of had body awareness, I mean, I knew how to meticulously observe what a shape looked like and then replicate it in my own body, but I’d chuck myself into deep backbends, (because I could), overstretch my hamstrings (no pain to gain, right?!…) and shove myself into more advanced poses — probably before my body was ready for it.
The result? My old running injuries started to resurface, I had bouts of lower back pain, which I’ve now healed myself (thank you Ana Forrest!), severe hamstring stuff going on, plus a load of other tweaks here and there. Basically, in just the way I treated myself off the mat, I was doing on the mat — burning out and pushing too hard. It took yoga for me to realise that I did that to myself physically and emotionally and I guess that’s why yoga found me… that’s a whole other blog though… 🙂
One of the dictionary definitions of integrity is: The condition of being unified or unimpaired. There are others, but I like that one. If I’m to reach my goals or fulfil my dreams (and that could be going from crow into handstand or that life by the sea), whatever they are, I need to be unimpaired.
So let’s focus on what that means on the mat. Well, each day for the past couple of months, I’ve been choosing an area to work on, to heal injuries and get better connected to what’s going on inside my body. It’s been a bit like a scientific experiment with my injuries. I’d be muttering to myself: “What happens if I relax this muscle and use this muscle instead?” and “If I stay here and breathe — really push the fresh oxygen into there — how does that feel?” or “OK, I can’t do this pose without it hurting, I need to pull back until I build more strength in that area”. And that’s literally what I’ve been doing, getting an understanding of why my body hurts when I do certain things, what feels really good and finding out which bits of me need strengthening before I can work the harder poses without blo*dy injuring myself.
Of course on one level, it all helps my physical practice, but by giving myself time to explore each pose and not fighting my way into a poses has been totally rewarding in other ways. It’s like a penny dropped for me after I’d finished my teacher training, like “oh sh*t, unless I build strong foundations and stop hurting myself, I ain’t gonna get nowhere” And by hurting myself, I don’t just mean physically, but in those old impatient behaviours I had towards myself…
Finding the integrity of every pose takes time and in backbends it’s been like going back to the beginning, but you know what, doing poses with integrity feels damn good! I can feel and see myself getting stronger and that’s way more satisfying than going too far too soon….OK, so I can’t do king pigeon when I’m not crunching in my lower back, but who cares?… I don’t anymore…. do you? What’s more, working with integrity isn’t boring — as a bit of an adrenalin junkie, I thought it might be — actually it gives you the strength, confidence and trust in yourself to be able to take risks…. so that one day you can fly from crow into your handstand.