My favorite yoga teacher, Tami Hafzallah, often tells her students to take the variation or pose “that your body is craving today.” For a long time I struggled with that idea. To me, craving meant chocolate or a doughnut. My body did not crave strength-building poses. I would interpret the instruction to mean, “Stretch whatever feels tight.” Eventually, as my yoga practice progressed, I began to realize that sometimes I held tension in different places. Sometimes different activities would accentuate the natural imbalance between the left and right side of the body. At those times, my body craved release of the unusual tension, or even, strength-building poses that would restore balance.
I love my yoga, but two and a half years after pregnancy I was still struggling to even access some of the muscles to engage my core. So this year, I started doing Pilates at Kinesia in Pioneer Square. My sessions were so slow and precise that they often looked more like physical therapy than a workout. But as classical Pilates teachers, Christl and Gay knew how to make those tiny movements count.
I spent many of my first sessions gritting my teeth as I tried to find muscles I didn’t know I had, thinking to myself, “Just get to the end of the hour and you never have to come back here.” At the end of the hour, I would step back out onto the street, ready to leave that kind of torture behind forever, and realize that all the tension in my neck and back was gone. I felt two inches taller and my limbs felt as if they had been reattached in a more functional position. That feeling of perfect alignment and free movement would last for several days. Between sessions, I would go to yoga and find that I could do poses that never worked for me before.
Even so, I never craved Pilates. It was too uncomfortable and challenging to crave. Until now. Over the weekend, I noticed that I was slouching, and when I tried to straighten up, it was hard for me to hold my posture. My ankle felt achy from an old injury and favoring that leg made my calves tight. I found myself thinking, “Only two more days until Pilates, and that’ll fix it.” Then I had to indulge in a moment of pride. I was craving Pilates. I couldn’t think of a more sure sign of progress.