Hi my favorite people- how was your weekend? I have nothing too exciting to report to you. Throats killing me and well- I’m under the weather. Bleh. No one likes being sick. It’s probably because of the weather. 15 degrees one day and 67 the next. Crazy I tell you. And my granny would probably say it’s because I wasn’t wearing enough clothes! Did you all have a nice weekend?
I wanted to address briefly the NY times article about yoga wrecking your body.
As always as a disclaimer I am not a doctor or healthcare professional. These are solely my own opinions and beliefs as an experienced yoga teacher.
There are several things to take away from this article. Like all physical activity, there are chances that you can become injured. The more yoga becomes popular (meaning the more students there are) means that there are higher percentages of injuries. It’s simple really. But just like with all athletic activity- if you push yourself past your edge you risk injury.
I have written about yoga etiquette before and discussed that all parties must take responsibility- meaning that the student should research the class that’s appropriate for them and the teacher should be instructing and teacher the poses at a level that’s appropriate for the students attending the class.You have to be aware of your own body and your own limitations (whatever they may be).
In yoga we talk about Yamas and the Niyamas which are basically like the do’s and don’ts of how to’s of living an ethical and skillful life. Number one on the list is ahimsa which means non-harming- non causing harm to ourselves or others.
If your hamstring is hurting you- you’re going too far. If you have a previous injury- i.e. your shoulder has come out of the socket- it’s not safe for you to do a headstand or shoulderstand if you have no strength in that arm and shoulder. So if you are keeping ahimsa in mind, you would hopefully be less likely to stress or strain the muscles in your body. However, your teacher should also have the knowledge and experience of the appropriate assists and be capable of guiding you into the pose at multiple levels, starting at the most basic level. Modifications should always be offered for those that cannot reach the furthest expression of the pose.
Yoga is about mind body awareness. Being aware of how your body moves and feels and linking/synching it with your breath. If you are fighting to get into a pose because you want to impress someone (including yourself) you’re letting your own ego get in the way. As someone who has been blessed with flexibility their entire life, I have learned the hard way to not always push myself just because I can. I am still now currently recovering from a foot injury from the summer as well as a knee injury. And even though I want to physically practice something intense every day, I simply can’t. And that took a lot of time for me to be OK with that. That’s just the way it is. And if you want to impress yourself, your friends, the teacher, whoever; you have the wrong idea about what yoga is really about. It’s not about being competitive. It’s about how you can get into the pose and what the steps you need to take to get there.
Yoga is about opening to mind to how things feel. Living and breathing and being aware of every single moment. Not about bending backwards with your leg behind your head. It’s also not about conforming to the stereotypical ideal of what we think someone who does yoga looks like (if you’ve seen the youtube video of the girl in her underwear doing handstands when she first wakes up!) but I’m not going there right now. It’s not about what your practice looks like compared to someone else’s.
So if we’d like to trade struggle and injury for ease and calm capability, a good place to begin is moving away from the idea of advanced. Yoga isn’t competitive posing. The "how" is far more important here than the "what." If a guru tells you to push harder to match what someone else looks like or does, find another guru. Better yet, find your self. A copy can never be so good as the original.
I’m not trying to open up a can of worms- but I want everyone to love yoga as much as I do while being smart about it. So I encourage you to find your own balance in your yoga practice feeling please and pain and doing it safely- they way that’s right for you. Make it expressive, creative, strong, powerful, and soft all at the same time.
So the next time you go to a class- be safe and listen to what your body’s telling you. Listen to the instructor and follow the directions. Modify if you need to. And don’t let your ego get in the way ok?
Happy yogaing <3