Paleomom, it sounds like you're pushing yourself too hard in your practice. Have you looked into some of the slower forms of Yoga? Astanga is pretty hard core. Although saying that, you can push yourself too hard in any practice. My practice used to be very slow, but sometimes I would come out of it absolutely exhausted. My teacher would say that I was processing a lot of emotional stuff, and I definitely was, but I also think my practice was too static - I was holding poses for too long and I would have benefited from my dynamism. I think Astanga has the opposite problem. I think a slower practice might be more appropriate for you right now.
Originally Posted by PaleoMom
In terms of strength and flexibility: in my personal experience, a lot has to do with diet. It took a long time for me to build up strength when I was vegetarian / vegan, but I see results much more quickly now that I eat a more nutritious diet. Now I can practice everyday and I'm rarely sore or in pain, but on my diet of lentils my body was aching after a session. It's completely mad how much stronger and more flexible I became when i gave up wheat and beans.
In relation to the Indian gurus: the Traditional styles of Yoga are slower, and much of the strength comes from co-ordination and intelligent movement, as opposed to muscular strength because, as Zoe pointed out, this is a spiritual system for them: not gymnastics. But I also think diet plays a role. And I think it's partially genetic! Any Westerner I know who has a dedicated practice and is lean builds muscle quite quickly - particularly with Astanga. Meanwhile I have friends with Indian heritage who are considerably fit, but they have no muscle tone. I read before how the skeletal sytems of the differents races are slightly different, but I'm not sure if that's been debunked or if it's now just unPC to say...
"I think the basic anti-aging diet is also the best diet for prevention and treatment of diabetes, scleroderma, and the various "connective tissue diseases." This would emphasize high protein, low unsaturated fats, low iron, and high antioxidant consumption, with a moderate or low starch consumption.
In practice, this means that a major part of the diet should be milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, fruits and coconut oil, with vitamin E and salt as the safest supplements."
- Ray Peat