Modified from the series created by BKS and Geeta Iyengar
The day I got my first period my dad bought me flowers and my sisters threw a party.
I was mortified.
I grew up dancing in a highly competitive environment where our bodies needed to be subjugated to the technique and form.
So, my trust was placed in my teachers and coaches, having them tell me when to rest and when to work. And I never thought of listening to my own body and it’s intuition.
I mean what’s that anyway?
So naturally I continued in this fashion into adulthood, continuing to push my body through grueling Spin and Power Yoga classes, even on the first days of my period when all I wanted to do was curl up and take a nap.
People who rest are unproductive! Don’t be lazy!
My inner voice would scream at me.
And so I did, until my current teacher made me pause.
A few years ago I was attending Nikki Costello’s weekly Teacher’s Practice at Kula Yoga. As a Senior Iyengar teacher, Nikki uses the formatting of the Iyengar lineage to organize her class. For each week of the month Iyengar Teachers target their classes towards a certain group and style of postures.
On this particular day, when I was on the first day of my period, we were working on Inversions.
About 45min into the 2hour class, I was struh-ggling.
I’m lightheaded. Weak. Faint.
And she could tell.
Eventually I sheepishly admitted to her where I was in my cycle, expecting her to criticize me for not pushing through it, but instead she sighs and says “Listen, I can’t tell you what to do with your body. You’re a woman. But it’s obvious that you need to give your body time to rest.”
This just washed over me and I felt a wave of relief that made me want to simultaneously jump out of my skin and curl up into a ball and weep.
She shepherded me over into a corner to begin a modified series of postures designed to soften the low abdomen and relieve low back tenderness. She gave me a lot of support, literally with props and blankets and figuratively, checking in on me periodically as she continued to guide the rest of the class through the rigorous Inversion sequence.
I made a profound shift that day because she shared with me a massive gift:
She permitted me to listen to my body and energy and honor it. And she educated me as to how to adjust my practice to what I specifically needed that day.
Even though I knew this concept, and encouraged my students to do this for years, Nikki gave me the license and space to truly practice acceptance and wisdom of self on my mat.
The Sanskrit word Svadhaya can be translated to “self study” or “self motivated study”.
The first definition points to studying one’s own self.
But the latter points toward having an inquiry that is self-motivated and propelled.
So often as teachers we tell students to “take things at their own pace” or “modify as you need”.
But what if we don’t know how to adequately modify? What if we don’t know what our pace is? How do clearly present to them the opportunity to shift gears and take time?
As with most things, we lead by example.
We inquire, we investigate and then we check in order to execute.
So, here you go loves. Here’s my example:
This was the practice I did just last week while I was beginning my cycle.
It was slow.
It was supported.
And I felt my most productive and powerful Self in...Savasana.