This last Friday was the first time in three weeks I could do a full forward fold. For three weeks I could barely bend forward at all, much less put my hands flat on the ground. I could touch with my fingertips, and then with my knuckles. But the full expression of this pose eluded me.
After I slipped a disc in my back things got a lot harder, and a lot more frustrating. I’d been making really good progress for a while. I had gotten to the point where I could do full wheel. And mermaid. And side plank. And full cobra. And bound side angle.
These are all pretty cool moves. Not near as cool as scorpion or firefly, sure, but still pretty advanced for me. Then I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck. Just sitting was hard. Bending my neck forward was hard. I could stand or lie flat. Transitioning in between wasn’t easy.
But Friday was the first time I could even do something as simple as a full forward fold. It wasn’t just that it hurt before. It was that my back was too tight and I couldn’t reach that far.
I was dismayed. I felt that I’d gone twenty steps backwards. I felt a little betrayed too. Surely all those exercises that I’d done for all these years would mean that I’d insured myself against such indignities like a slipped disc. My self-righteousness got a good hard kick in the butt.
But this too is yoga. It is showing up, and giving it your best, and not judging. It is not judging others or yourself. It is doing your best, and forgiving yourself if doing your best means just wanting to go to yoga class but you just can’t make it this week. Or this month. It means being OK with the practice, wherever you are in it.
Just wanting to is part of the practice. Falling is part of the practice. Getting back up, body and ego bruised, is part of the practice.
I remember how I felt when I did headstand and handstand a few months back. I felt like a rock star. Those are pretty amazing moves. Sure, I was braced up against a wall so I wouldn’t fall over, but I stayed up. The strength in my neck and in my arms held my entire body up. I never would have imagined I could do it. I’m glad I tried. I felt invincible.
Funny thing, this Friday, when I did forward fold for the first time since I hurt my back, I felt the same way.
Maybe that is the secret. Be content with what you can do, right now. Don’t judge it, and don’t expect it to stay that way. It is what it is. Take your successes but don’t gloat about them.