Heather Katz is a recent graduate of the Grateful Yoga 200 hour teacher training program. She is "gratefully retired", has a dog named Tabitha and a remarkable sandal tan this summer! The following was written by Heather as a part of her teacher training graduation. Thank you, Heather, for sharing such an invaluable lesson with us!!
I have good days and bad days with pain.
Let me rephrase that.
I have bad days and less bad days with pain.
Most of my life I have been moderately active. Bicycling was my preferred activity, until sudden partial deafness made road cycling not a particularly safe option.
I flirted around yoga for years, taking a few classes here and there. A few years ago I started taking asana practice more seriously.
I didn’t find any classes that particularly inspired me until quite by accident I discovered ashtanga practice. I fell in love.
I dove in full force. I had never before experienced such a rewarding physical yoga practice. My body, however, was not prepared. I emphasize the words “my body”. No two of us are the same.
In truth, it was not just my body that was not prepared. I came into the practice with previous injuries that had never been properly tended to. I lacked general awareness of what was going on in my body. I ignored aches, thinking I would work out the muscle issues with time. Sometimes that happened. Sometimes, especially around previous injury sites, the ache turned to pain.
When pain began to have an adverse impact on my daily life, I turned to chiropractic treatment and massage therapy for help.
Despite body work the pain got progressively worse. It began to limit my active practice.
That simply would not do.
What was I, an extremely stubborn person, and more than a little competitive, going to do? More yoga, of course.
I decided to explore the possibility of yoga teacher training.
Not that I necessarily wanted to teach, I said. I wanted to deepen my practice, I said. I had no clue what that meant.
I found a lovely studio (Grateful Yoga) that offered flexibility in the teacher training program. I could start at any point, and I could set my own pace for completing the program.
To my surprise, the equally lovely studio owner (Chrissy) readily agreed to take me as a student. (In no way do I resemble the profile of a western 21st century yoga teacher.)
I began my studies. My understanding of yoga did indeed deepen. I learned about meditation. Mantra. Pranayama. The yamas and niyamas. Mindfulness. Intention. Releasing ego from the asana practice.
And oh yes, the pain.
I began to think more seriously about a yin practice.
Might as well be chair yoga.
I learned that it is about balance. Not the kind where we stand on one foot.
The effort/surrender balance.
Yin yoga is often described as being rather than doing. It is not an easy practice, not mentally and not physically. My first yin class was with a teacher that I now claim as a dear friend. There were times during that first class when I wanted to stand up, jump up and down, and shout “I hate this! I hate you! I hate everyone and everything...”.
(Hip opening will do that to a person)
I didn’t jump up and down and shout. Instead I kept returning my attention to my breath. I began to learn more about my body.
Eventually I realized that I could have a yin practice and also have an ashtanga practice. In fact, a regular yin practice makes my active asana practice stronger.
Pain still limits me, some days more than others. One of the benefits of being stubborn is that I never give up on what is important to me.
Balance. Effort. Surrender.
-By Heather Katz
****All photos were taken by Chrissy during an Ashtanga Primary Series class. Heather comes to class just like she always has, but now she only practices the postures that don't cause her pain and spends the rest of the time practicing yin or restorative postures!
Heather teaches at the studio Monday @ 7:15 pm Restorative Yoga and Friday @ 10 am Ashtanga Basics. Look for Yin Yoga on our next schedule coming out in September!!
We love you Heather!