Originally written by Zara M on  09 January 2014

It felt so wonderful after a few weeks of doing nothing but eat, drink and celebrate Christmas with loved ones; to finally come back and embrace the New Year with some much needed Yoga practice.

I have to say I was worried I’d find it a struggle as I missed a few Yoga4Tango classes before Christmas, and so I knew my body would be well and truly out of shape; but I was pleased to discover that my muscle memory was up to par, and I didn’t find the session as physically challenging as I thought I might. This may have been due to the fact that I spent my Christmas going for long walks across the rural open-skied and hilly landscapes of France, so my leg muscles have been in use much more than usual. No wonder I was experiencing more strength in my body during the class and was able to hold poses seemingly with ease. (Well, I always try to make it look like it’s easy by doing it all with as much elegance as possible, but it’s not always the case I can assure you – aren’t I vain?)

It wasn’t an easy session mind you; Yoga4Tango likes to push us to our limits, within reason of course. I suppose you have to remember that you are always in control of your own pace as an individual in the class, and so if you feel like you need to drop back, you can just slip out of the sequence and into a resting pose to recuperate your energy and regain grounding and alignment. These are the most important elements of yoga, because if you don’t put your energy into getting the grounding and alignment elements right (for you) then there is no point at all, because you are not taking control of your body movement, and there is no mind-body connection.

Now then, I always go on about how good I feel after a yoga class, what benefits I have discovered from the practice and how my flexibility and strength is improving each week; but this week I want to have a bit of a gripe first. There is one thing I really don’t enjoy during the class, and this is when we all have to stand at the top of the mat, bend forward from the hip crease and hook two fingers under each big toe, with legs bent and hamstrings taut. It really hurts my thighs! I can rarely hold this position for long because the muscles in my thighs begin to burn and my knees feel like jelly and I want to release the pressure to get rid of that feeling before I collapse into an embarrassing heap on the mat! It’s not a pleasant feeling for me at all. And then to top it all off, straight afterwards we do exactly the same thing, only putting the entire palm of our hand underneath the ball of the foot – I have to admit that I am getting quite irritable by this point, and every time I give up a few second before everyone else, I feel on the verge of a strop.

They say there is no gain without pain, don’t they? But I don’t feel this pose has improved for me at all since I first started practicing yoga. Perhaps it is my mental attitude towards it that is holding me back? Or maybe it is meant to hurt and I just need to toughen up? I don’t know. There are some you things that you may not like doing but you just have to get on with them. It’s a bit like getting up early in the morning; it takes self-discipline and dedication. I’m not always very good at that. Wednesday morning I forgot to get up early to write this blog for instance, and it completely slipped my mind that I had promised myself to go to the early-morning free yoga practice too!

The peril of working for oneself is that there is nothing and no one to motivate you but yourself. Maybe that is why I enjoy yoga so much; it reminds me that when I make the effort to do something that is good for me, I reap the rewards afterwards and the good vibes of success and achievement vibrate on into the rest of the day and week.

I am looking forward to the next four weeks, as they will be focused on going over everything that we have covered so far. It is to be a four-week intensive recap. So I intend to think about the things I would like to improve or understand better about how my own body works and feels during each practice. Often I go through the session with a high level of self-analysis, which would be great if it didn’t border on self-criticism! One of the wonderful things about our instructors though, is that they observe each of us during the sessions and take note of the improvements they see. Last weekend after the class we all went for a drink and a bite to eat, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear from both of my instructors that they had noticed how much stronger I looked in the class, and how much care and precision I put into moving in and out of each posture during a sequence. I suppose my private inner-monologue of self-criticisms translates to outsiders observing as me being dedicated and taking a pride in what I am doing.

In the spirit of the New Year I am making a resolution for 2014 to practice a little bit of yoga every day; even if it is only assuming downward dog for a few minutes while the kettle boils or speeding through a Sun Salute while my bath water is running! I also want to sort out my posture by sitting properly at a desk to do my work when I am working from home, because I have noticed recently that I have been suffering from a few unwanted twinges and pain in parts of my back, shoulders and neck, which worries me. I hope you have integrated some yoga resolutions into your goals for 2014 too!

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