I did seated postures in my yoga practice today and took note of the muscles that have shortened, from less activity, since my surgery in November. My right SCM was rearranged at its insertion point and parts of my right ear and upper neck are still a bit numb so I've been careful with headstands, shoulder stands and backbends. Intellectually I know that my entire body was involved, yet whenever I get on the mat, I am equally surprised by the muscles that move with ease and those that complain.
I heard sound bites of the instructions I intoned over and over in my classes and I knew what pains to be cautious of and which ones to work through. By the end of my practice, I'd drawn up a mental list of the muscles that need to be worked and started thinking of ways to bring my body back up to speed. I pulled out several notebooks, filled with years of workshop instructions, quotes and hastily drawn stick figures. Looking for clues, I discovered the prize.
In a 2007 workshop taught by Jehangir Palkhivala, I noted:
Modify poses in order to obtain peace and comfort first, even if the poses look ridiculous. For example, on your fingertips to strengthen fingers and wrists.
Modify your poses. 1) Always do it with joy and peace rather than with weakness and incapacity. Get better with peace and joy. Get better without aggression. 2) When you get it, you will do it gracefully.
At the time, these instructions were probably given in response to questions from those in the workshop with specific injuries. As I read them today, they apply to all of the poses that I am either doing with caution or wanting to improve. They also apply to so many other areas of my life.
Get better without aggression. When you get it, you will do it gracefully.