… Maya wanted to help me channel this discipline into productive energy to teach me how to learn to be patient with my body, which – once being a dedicated ballerina herself – she knew a dancer is never taught to do. After noticing an increasing frustration due to not having any patience in yoga, I considered learning how to be patient may be helpful in my future.
I began to take the class more frequently, mainly because it was the only hobby I was practicing that took place five minutes away from home, and thus easy to attend during a hectic school week. Every Tuesday at 6, I rolled out my mat, my mom next to me, bracing myself for the class, and proceeded to do this for the next 5 years (sometimes with and sometimes without my mom). Class began 10 minutes before 6, lying back on the cushion with the belt around our hips and heels to help elongate and open up our joints in Supta Baddha Konasana. We then continued into either Adohmukha or into leg stretches beginning with Supta Padangusthasana. I learned quickly that it was pointless to force a stretch – it takes time to achieve perfection. This enlightened realization may or may not have included a nearly torn thigh muscle after pushing myself into the splits (which I am still trying to recover from today, after aggravating it doing too many treadmill runs!!)
In the very first class, I learned I was doing Setu Bandha Sarvangasana all wrong. What looked like a simple pelvic raise was more than I initially thought. I was only using my abdominals and not able to relax any of the muscles that weren’t meant to be used in this exercise. Every single time Maya checked up on my alignment, she corrected me until I finally got it right. I had to learn to open up my chest and expand my rip cage more, while letting go of my abs and turning my inside thigh muscles outwards.
It also took me three years to fully understand how to do Adohmukha. I realized I had to try to stretch my calves to get my heels on the ground, but not by pushing my legs down. I had to activate my thigh muscles that then extended past my knees to my calves. Activating my shoulders to extend my back helped increase flexibility in my hips, also helping me get my heels on the floor. Little changes like those made big differences.
Same realization with the twists; I was always either sitting with my back leaning too far back or too far forward, not in my center, which could only be changed by adjusting my pelvic alignment. It took me another year to understand the concept of leg muscle rotation, especially in Prasarita Padottanasana. I never fully got how to rotate my inner muscles out and my outer muscles in, but as soon as I did, my back automatically lowered a few inches, making me – and my teacher – very proud.
It took me a long time to learn to observe yoga as a way of connecting various parts and muscles of my body to achieve an improvement in another one. As Vasili told me in my very first class, it was an absolute help in my dance training as I learned to accept my body for what it is and not for what I want to force it to be. It is making me become more patient and lenient with myself, which I now see has helped make improvements in not only my stretches and exercises, but also in my self-perception and funny enough academics; things don’t always require force and big changes to be achieved, sometimes small adjustments over time can be equally powerful.