It happens. Days go by – maybe even weeks – and we haven’t been to class. Maybe it starts with vacation – or just a trip away – and then there is post-vacation catch up. Because maybe it’s not just the days gone on vacation, but the days leading up to it or after, when you’re either preparing to be gone or coming back and cramming in laundry and grocery shopping outside the normal schedule. Or if you were traveling across several time zones, it can be that jet lag getting to you (like me, recently). There is both anticipation and a little trepidation at returning to class.
Last month I was in France for a little over a week. And while I definitely did a lot of walking (so much walking), by the time I came back to class, I hadn’t been in nearly two weeks. The muscles in my legs were used, but not stretched well. And the muscles in my arms? Only worked in carrying luggage around. So that first class back, I wondered how sore I was going to be, and if I would still be able to go deep into some of the poses I loved. Because while two weeks doesn’t seem like a long time, even a few days away can be noticeable to the body.
I hear this a lot in classes, the idea of respecting where you are today. That it may be different. So when I took my first class back, I gave myself certain reminders throughout class. The first: Be gentle with yourself.
I tried to balance what I felt comfortable doing against what might be too much, because I wanted to get back to my routine practice as soon as possible. And if I pushed it, I might feel too sore for my next class or even worse, potentially injure myself. So when I opted to hold plank instead of lowering into another chaturanga, I focused on the breath and remembered that even here, I’m building back that strength.
By being gentle with myself, I was still very much enjoying class. And probably much more so than if I tried to flow like I did before the time away. If I’d done that, I might have found my mind wandering and thinking “how many more breaths are we holding this warrior?” Instead, I settled into the gentleness. And flowed.
Which leads me to the second thing I reminded myself: Enjoy the journey.
I love my practice, and I had an amazing time on my vacation. Once I came back, I tried to remember that it wasn’t so much about getting back to where I was before my break. Instead it was getting to where I was going to be now. This past month, I’d been away from class for less than two weeks. But a few years ago, I was away for a little over two months. And I do still remember the journey getting back onto my mat and building back that strength.
In a way, coming back to the mat after a short break – however long – can be a good reminder of the journey. And since it’s not every day that we can come to the mat as though it was close to the first time, coming back after a short time away reminds us even of how far we’ve come. And that we can do it again.
This is the part of a series of posts for The Mat yoga studio, sharing my thoughts and observations as a student only. The views and opinions are my own.