Yoga and...? Why Yoga Shouldn't Be Your Only Practice
We are honored here at GoddessCeremony to share this lovely guest blog post by Amanda Cantrell, a yogi with over 15 years of experience on her mat. Enjoy!
2018 will bring my 15th year of practicing yoga. I was a Pilates person, but then a near-fatal car accident left me with a spinal injury that had the doctor telling me to move to yoga. I was skeptical at first, but I fell in love. Yoga has allowed me a kind of connection to my body that most only dream of. I am so familiar with how it feels and how it moves that I can tell I’m getting sick days before I show any symptoms. I know when a position in bed will cause me pain tomorrow, and will reposition several times in a chair because I can feel how it puts pressure on my joints.
That connection has taken a long time to create, and I truly value it. But despite all my dedicated time and practice in yoga, I still felt like I was lacking. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t related to pose ability – it partially was. Why couldn’t I quite get that leg back in dancer? What about that leg in front with my nose to my knee? And please don’t ask me to hold a chaturanga. So if I am following all the practices and working on building those poses like yoga blogs, journals, and my teachers say, how come they weren’t becoming any closer to a reality for me?
It was because I was only doing yoga. I had forsaken all other athletic endeavors. Those who have seen me may ask what athletic endeavors, but despite my non-traditional yoga body, I have always been active and almost athletic. I danced my entire life; I played soccer for almost 10 years; I weightlifted; and got into the Tae-Bo craze. But when this accident happened, all of my energy went to yoga. Which was amazing, but it was also incomplete.
I wish I could say I figured this out early on, but it took me going to my doctor and discussing that non-traditional yoga body to get it to dawn on me. When we talked about my exercise routine, she was fine with all the yoga for strength, but I needed more. I think my jaw hit the table. What more could I want than yoga? It left me feeling amazing, had me connected with my body, made me strong, had my resting heart rate around 60 and I was in perfect health. What in the world did she mean that I needed more?
On her advice, I set out to try and find more. Remember how I loved dancing my entire life? I found Zumba. I am now teaching it, and loving every minute of it. What does Zumba add to my yoga? It adds stamina. Those side planks that use to get me all out of my asana, now are a breeze. It gave me additional core strength. I had a pretty good plank before, now I’m as solid as the ground we walk on. I have a deeper lunge and a better foundation for those standing balancing poses. I found that by adding a cardio element that also worked those larger muscle groups, I was able to go further on my mat.
Remember that weightlifting I mentioned? I found TRX. It was the perfect blend on strengthening and lifting without straining my back, or injuring any muscles that are critical to my being upright. TRX provided me with better arms, which allowed me to finally hold that chaturanga. Four limbed staff was no longer a pose I couldn’t do. I was working on my endurance there, but the fact that I can do it at all is amazing. Adding a lifting element gave me muscles in the areas I was missing, and added exponential strength in muscles that were already good. TRX allows my practice to be stronger and deeper.
But those aren’t the only things I found. I discovered the newer types of yoga. When I began, it was pretty much your standard practices that had made their way west- a good vinyasa flow, some hatha holding, and of course the mother of all practices: Bikram. Now, although there were other types of yoga practices floating around, these were the most easily accessible to me at that time. The idea of hot yoga was becoming big in my hometown of Dallas, and although I had tried it a few times, it wasn’t necessarily my favorite. I liked the intensity of a good flow, and the strength of the hatha style. I was happy.
In 2011, I finally found a studio home that was wonderfully challenging, while being incredibly supportive. It was also hot though. So I now added hot yoga into my routine. I was even happier.
But when I found myself being told to do more, I secretly knew I could. I found the other areas that I now love and expanded my practice, but now, without needing prompting, I knew I could expand once more, so why stop? So I tried air yoga, or aerial yoga; yoga done with the assistance of silks hanging from the ceiling. Whew! Remember those solid planks? Well, they meant nothing in this class. It was intense! It took a few times going, but I really fell in love. Any inversion done from a silk is the best back pop you will experience. And who can’t help but feel a little sexy knowing you can do all those poses with no attention to gravity.
I tried Iyengar yoga and found that it created a double check for my posture and alignment. Those adjustments carried on in my other practices. I tried Kundalini, and found that while it was fine, I didn’t feel the same connection. I discovered yin and learned that yoga sometimes hurts. But regularly adding it in allowed me to go further into my forward folds and twists. I retried Bikram, and like Kundalini, I think I’ll leave it for others. All of that to say, I found that yoga didn’t have to be the same in 2017 as what it was in 2003. I wasn’t the same, so why should my practice be?
Going outside of my studio, outside of my mat was a real challenge for me. What could accommodate my injury, keep my yoga practice strong, and help? Only yoga; or so I reasoned. It was hard to find those things. But as soon as I did, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t found them earlier.
I will always be a yogi. Yoga will always be my first choice of movement, my daily routine, my place of calm, my source of stress relief, and how I identify myself in the world of exercise. But now it’s not the only thing that defines me.
So I challenge you, dear reader, to go and find something new. Try that spin class you’ve always said you would do. Go for Insanity and see if you can keep up. Add some Pilates to your yoga. Go out, and try something different. See what a difference looking outside your mat can make on the practice inside of it. Don’t be simply a yogi. Be a yogi and...
Find what your and is and see where it takes you. You might find a new habit; you might find confirmation in your preferences; or you might just find a new friend, but whatever you find, it will be worth the search.
Be more of you. You won’t regret it.
About the Guest Blog Writer~
Amanda Cantrell is a yogi with fifteen years of practice under her belt. She is passionate about yoga, and is that friend who is always asking you to go with her to a class. Amanda has a wide background in public education, non-profit work, theatre, and of course-yoga. Currently she resides in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband and two furkids. Amanda loves to travel, learn, read, write, paint, do yoga, and act in the theatre community. Her favorite pose is probably pidgeon or dancer, and is often reminded of the anonymous quote, "Blessed are the are flexible, for they shall not be broken."
You can find her online at thebendyraven.wordpress.com,
on Instagram @thebendyraven