I used to call this ‘before & after’ but I’m learning to shift my language to ‘then & now.’ There isn’t really an ‘after’ when it comes to fitness and wellness, because you’re always changing and expanding your knowledge and understanding.
Most of this learning has come from a deepened yoga practice. When I first started practicing, it was all about ‘nailing’ the moves (and in some cases, I still host those sentiments). Now, I’m learning that it’s more about being aware, focusing, creating space in the body, and quieting the mind.
Most of these ‘then and now’ photos were taken 1-2 years apart. I want to focus on more than just the physical differences. There’s been a lot of learning, growth, and understanding between shots.
I don’t practice each of these moves every day, or even every week, so the ‘now’ pieces might be from the last month or couple of months.
I don’t practice this one regularly, but I feel the difference now and can better understand why the one on the left looks like I’m having a hard time holding it.
When I first started practicing, I was told that ‘crow is the gateway to arm balances.’ I so wish I could go back to that moment and disregard that information. Not being able to get into crow well at first discouraged me from practicing arm balances. I had it in my mind that I had to balance in crow before all other poses. This is not the case! I found better balance in eight-legged pose and side balances and those became my gateway to confidence. When I revisit crow now, it comes more easily.
My next challenge is to move from crow to firefly.
Backbends have always come easily to me. I practiced these a lot as a kid, just because it felt fun (which is really entertaining to think about, because as an adult I’ve had to fight hard against upside-down fears).
I love the backbend in camel and playing with variations. There’s always room for growth with this posture. Even in the ‘now’ picture, I can see that I have to work on pushing my hips forward.
My next challenge is to continue pushing my hips forward and walk the hands toward the knees.
This one is subtle. Side planks can be a fierce tool in a yogi’s physical development. Through my daily practice, I’ve learned to position the resting foot above (or below) the knee, not directly on the knee. I’ve also learned that the balance and strength are greater when the balancing arm is not directly below the shoulder, but at a slightly obtuse angle from the body.
My next challenge is to create space in the back and grab that resting foot from behind with my free arm on top.
I love the openness felt in half moon pose. I love adding this to flows, and use it frequently in my PiYo classes. Thanks to regular studio practice (with an instructor), I’ve started practicing binds in this posture.
It’s very challenging to balance on one foot while grabbing the free leg and wrapping the second arm around the body. I’ve had to learn trust (falling forward several times) and to concentrate on the breath while working through this bind.
My next challenge with this is to practice on the other side (guilty).
I’m probably most proud of my headstand progress this year. It’s a ‘cool’ posture, but I’m mostly proud that I’ve truly conquered my upside-down fears. It has taken time (these photos are 2 years apart), but I’ve managed to control the breath, take my time, and focus on engaging the core to keep the legs lifted.
My next challenge is to keep working on variations on entering and exiting this posture.
I love tracking my progress! Previously, I worked under a ‘pose and snap’ model, and now I end up using a screenshot of my bigger practice. Now, I’m very interested in flow, how to get into and out of certain movements and how everything connects and ‘unlocks’ the next level.
And sometimes, life throws you unexpected setbacks, and you have to prepare yourself for physical challenges. Fortunately, my situation is temporary, but I know I’ll have a ton of hard work ahead of me to build back what I’ve worked so diligently to gain this summer.
I’m sure I’ll continue to grow within my practice, and I look forward to understanding even more.