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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Greeff

Addicted to Asana

An honest reflection on how a journey to the bottom can give you experience and skills to rise back up with unique strengths and insights!

Hi, my name is Kimberly, and I’m a recovering asana junkie.

I used to practice yoga 2-4 hours a day. EVERY DAY. I taught strict and rigorous sequences that would leave students drenched in sweat and trembling as they exited the studio.

I was good at intense.

I was real. (I still am real!)

I had a no bullshit approach (Actually, I still have that too!)

I was an intensity junkie, and I was dishing out some pretty fine shit for all the other intensity junkies out there!

The truth is, the intensity was the only thing I could feel. I couldn’t do the subtle stuff; I couldn’t appreciate the alignment stuff. I pushed my body to its edges, and I found teachers and practices that would take me there. I missed family outings, gatherings and life experiences because I was obsessed with my next yoga fix. I’m not going to lie. I went after yoga like an addict goes after their drug of choice. If you know anything about addiction, you’ll know that it’s only a matter of time before the user hit’s their bottom. When the insanity of doing what your doing over and over but expecting different results is just too exhausting, and you can no longer keep doing what you’ve been doing, that’s rock bottom.

Here’s a sneaky little thing about addiction. You slowly stop doing things that you used to love and instead replace it with your drug of choice. I did that. I had stopped running because it made me too tight in the hips for my deep hip openers. I stopped rock climbing because it made my shoulders too tight for my inversions and my backbends. I ceased to do things I LOVED so I could “yoga” better.

I hit my rock bottom when my hip began “popping, ” and I started to experience instability in my pelvis. I also had a rib that kept popping out, and I would damn near pass out in deep back bends. I knew what I was doing wasn’t working. I began to have the sneaking suspicion that what I was teaching wasn’t sustainable for my student’s long term. A seed of doubt was planted, the seed was watered by fear as I read about yoga teachers getting hip replacements or repairing torn labrums and as a teacher with students, I felt a tremendous responsibility to help them practice safely. Was it too late? Had I already pushed my body too far? Should I throw in the towel as a teacher and resign myself to doing something else? These were all questions I struggled with and the struggle was real.Admitting this was a very sobering experience and the first step for me in evolving the way I practiced and taught.

So, here’s the thing: movement is like food. We need it for the health and wellness of our being. Yoga combines our awareness, breath, and bodies with the present moment. We are designed to move. Yoga is a fantastic platform for moving with awareness! I couldn’t quit yoga any more than an anorexic can stop eating to overcome their eating disorder.

Realizing I couldn’t give up yoga or teaching I set out on one of the most vulnerable journeys I’ve ever taken. I was determined to reclaim myself from the throws of an unhealthy relationship with yoga. I set out to change the things I could with teachers who were already blazing the path in changing the way we practice yoga.

Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up® and the Roll Model® Method, was instrumental in my recovery. She posted images of poses she had retired from her practice, and I felt a little less alone in my journey. When I took her level 1 YTU training, I found a whole community of compassionate movement educators and began to reframe my ideas around the practice of yoga, and I taught.

I took to my mat with less rigorous sequences and instead highlighted self-care, self-compassion and began to integrate movements that helped me feel empowered and embodied instead of wrung out and shaking I felt energized and motivated to start doing the things I used to. I began to heal. I sought out skilled professionals to help me figure out that fearful clunking in my right hip. Invested time energy and resources into furthering my education in anatomy, biomechanics and movement science. I discovered a tribe of movement educators, allies and professional peers whose mission is to help people live better in their bodies through educating and understanding of how the body works.

I began to shed who I thought I should be as a yoga teacher and instead began stepping into the person I had become. I could no longer teach how I used to teach because I was no longer practicing the way I used to practice and as a teacher with students I changed. Some students fell away, and others stayed, and a like-minded community began to emerge from the ashes of my old way of life.

I no longer had the best intensity fix in town. I was no longer cooking up crazy and dishing it out in sweaty, shaky doses. I ditched the big backbends and stopped trying to pry my hips open with hip openers. Change isn’t always easy, but damn it’s sometimes necessary. As a recovering asana junkie I began to teach what I had learned about the body and honoring our structure like the stable temple, it’s designed to be. I no longer taught people how to rearrange their support to go deeper but now offered sustainable movements to help their everyday lives.

I'm no longer trying to get people into poses; I'm helping people get into their bodies.

My classes are full of unconventional asana, inquiries into the way you move, or don’t move, a passion for living and a genuine love of helping people heal.

Have you ever met an addict in recovery?

They are a kick in the pants; funny, lively, honest and experienced at life in a down to earth kind of way you might even say a “no bullshit” kind of way.

As a recovering asana junkie, you can expect those things from me too. There is nothing I love more than seeing a students “ah-ha” moment or hearing about it later when they’ve had time to digest their experience. Students have shared how they've strengthened weak ankles, so they no longer sprain them. Reclaimed fallen arches and reduced bunions to barely there. Learned how to breathe with the fullness of their diaphragm so that they're no longer breathing shallow. Aligned their bodies for better posture, cultivate compassion for themselves and others, become curious instead of judgmental and fearful of their chronic pain, enhanced their performance to swim, bike, climb, run and show up for their work, friends and families with more presence and attention.

Does this sound good to you?

Yeah, it does to me too. Join me on the mat for a group class or sign up for a free 15-minute consultation to see how private sessions might be helpful for you and your journey towards living better in your body.

In Health & Wellness,

Kimberly Greeff

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