Modified. Primary, prim.

by Joanna D.

The injury, creating an intense rift in physical ability, gave me plenty of things to work around. Limitations included no weight bearing, little to no range of mobility, and a general state of fatigue/physical weakness. However, as famously stated by Guruji, “anyone can take practice”, no matter the circumstance.

At the beginning, all I could really do was breathe. And, for whatever reason, even that proved to be difficult; in, out. Keeping at it everyday, adding physical movement even as minimally as inhale reach up, exhale fold. Inhale reach up, exhale fold. For the first two weeks this and some of the pranayama exercises outlined in Vayu Siddhi got me through to a place where I could get to the floor.

Then I started modifying/creating versions of the Surya Namaskara’s, thinking of ways to get a well rounded system of movement while remaining within my limits.

Slowly adding on poses everyday, using props, sometimes a lot of props to help accommodate my limitations and discover possibilities to move forward with. Some efforts where quite informative while others just didn’t work out. 

Couple times a day, everyday and everyday developing a new plan for the next day.  As I got stronger, more was added, planned and modified. However, even though movement was there and practice was happening I was experiencing loss of muscle control with visible atrophy.

Physical therapy has helped with that some. Once a week receiving exercises designed to help with range of motion, strength and balance. Some of the most simple things prove to be the hardest. However, by applying the foundational principles of ashtanga yoga, I was able to grasp the essential aspects of reanimating movement with an informed mind.

Progressively, less props are needed though many limitations still exist. Standing postures recreated as well as possible while seated, trying to activate the body the same way as it would be while standing. Tricky. Working with backbends; mostly accessed through Ustrasana and Kapotasana with blankets under the left foot. This was a great way to work with the back bending principles in place of Urdhva Dhanurasana but not ideal in the way of using and accessing the shins to aide in the foundational work. Slowly this is changing.

At just over seven weeks I have a fully modified primary practice and the ability to modify over half of second series. The modifications and alignment principles I worked with were inspired by what I have learned from David Garrigues, not to mention the depth of understanding of what it means for my personal and spiritual development to practice. I highly recommend anyone who doesn’t study with him to do so. I also used this video for ideas and greatly appreciate the fact that it was out there. Today Suzanne Faulkner and I made our own version, Ashtanga Yoga Club Durham style.

In all accounts, Ashtanga has taught me, and continues to teach me, many things and in the face of giving up, I don’t.