Day 15: Tortoise Pose (kurmasana)

At my teacher-training lecture today, I started thinking about my very first yoga class. Allow me to reminisce.

2004: The Beginning

I went to my very first yoga class and confess that I hated it. But not for the reasons, you’d expect. I spent the whole time super dizzy. I’d never spent so much time upside down, in particular in downward facing dog. There’s a long story behind my fear of dizziness, but to make a long story short, four years prior, I had had my 2nd brain surgery. Dizziness wasn’t just something I felt coming off a merry-go-round; dizziness was, to me, the scariest symptom a person could experience. I confronted the teacher afterwards, and asked if there was a way to do yoga without downward facing dog, and she said, if I breathed into the pose, it would help me with the lightheadedness. I walked away thinking the instructor didn’t understand me. In hindsight, she was probably right.

2004-2006: I still don’t like it.

Despite my fears of yoga, for the next two years, I went to classes off and on. Yoga was booming in San Francisco, so I went mainly as a social thing. Kind of like hiking with your girlfriends.

2007: I’m starting to like it.

For a while, attending yoga class was this expensive thing I did with my girlfriends. Costs were a big deal to me, so out of frugality, I bought a huge pass at Yoga Tree. And suddenly, I was going to yoga, by myself, all the time. Around 2007ish, I don’t even remember when it happened, but something shifted in me. I stopped feeling dizzy upside down and I found that after yoga, I was unusually calm.

2008: I fall head over heels.

In 2008 I spent half the year overseas. (Travel blog here.) And during that time, yoga, as the only form of exercise that was mobile, went everywhere I went. I practiced yoga via CD, by myself, in an artist colony in Costa Rica. I took yoga classes in Santa Teresa near the ocean, where I executed my first handstand. I took a yoga class in London with a bunch of old ladies. And it was then that I realized that with all the instability in my life, my practice was my only constant. I didn’t just love yoga; I needed Yoga.

2008: Yoga finally becomes a committed practice.

In 2008, I moved to Los Feliz in Los Angeles, a block away from the cutest, boutique yoga studio: Yummy Yoga.  Yummy Yoga changed my life. When I moved to LA, I didn’t have any friends, but almost immediately, yoga became my emotional and actual community. After  a few weeks, I was in a book club, I went out to dinner and drinks with new people, and I had a place to spend my lonely evenings after a long day of work. I practiced yoga 4-5 times a week for nearly two years. And in doing so, my practice improved dramatically.

2009: I hurt my wrist.

I was practicing so much yoga during this time and on my computer writing that I severely injured my wrist. My tendon swelled up to the size of a tennis ball, and the pain was so severe, I struggled with every day tasks. That moment, despite affecting my practice, was one of the most important things to happen to me in yoga. I learned to listen to my body and be aware of my limitations. Before, I couldn’t discern the difference between good and bad pain, and this injury forced me back off. The wrists are a huge part of nearly every pose, and I had to swallow my pride and only do what I could. I wore a wrist guard (still do), I bought push up bars (still use them), and I don’t do every pose unless it feels right (sorry, no crow or scissor for me). I realized that yoga wasn’t about hitting every pose to the max, but about doing what I could at that moment.

2011: So much more to learn.

Although I’m only three weeks into this teacher-training course, I already know that it’s not enough time. There’s so much to learn, and I’m loving every second of it—the reading, the in-depth study of anatomy (bones, tendons, muscles, etc), and even the spirituality. For me, partaking in the physical postures on a consistent base makes me calm in all aspects of my life.

Speaking of poses, today’s pose is the Tortoise Pose, or kurmasana. This is the first moderately advance pose, I’ve presented in this blog, and don’t advise you to do it unless, you have the guidance of a teacher. Kurmasana helps lengthen back muscles and release any tightness in the sacrum. The positive effects of this pose can also be achieved from a Seated Angle Pose, or Upavista Konasana.

Thanks for reading! Namaste.

About Chellis Ying

Chellis is a writer, yogi and teacher based in California.
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