Have you ever hurt yourself when practicing Yoga? How many times have you ignored your own instincts to push yourself in any activity and regretted it later?
Don’t get me wrong, pushing ourselves to achieve more can be an extremely positive thing; setting goals and working hard to obtain them is to be admired and encouraged. However there is a fine line between striving for a goal in a positive way and mindlessly reaching across the line with no consideration for the consequences. Staying on the healthy side of “the line” means we have to be really in tune with ourselves; taking time to really to listen to what is needed physically, mentally and emotionally at that present moment. This is true not only yoga but also in our everyday lives.
Our needs, like our lives, change constantly. It doesn’t make any sense to always do the same activity, in the same way, every day. The skill is learning to LISTEN INTROSPECTIVELY, no easy thing in a loud world, with busy minds. Taking the time for a few minutes of introspection everyday can have huge positive repercussions, making us more resilient to stress and overall more productive.
For me this takes the form of my Yoga practice. I believe that getting out a yoga mat and just sitting for a few minutes each morning is a very underestimated tool for coping with life. My mat is my sanctuary, wherever I am. Sometimes just sitting on it might be all I do, but that depends on what I hear when I am sat there. When I talk about my Yoga practice, I’m not talking about doing an intricate and highly physically demanding gymnastics routine. But just sitting, and listening, and breathing. Noticing my body, my mind and my emotions is the precursor to anything further. If then I feel like moving, then I will; maybe just a bit of a wriggle and a stretch; maybe some rounds of Sun Salutations, if my body needs it. On a strong, energetic “I can do anything kind of day” this may develop into a full blown Astanga Primary Series or vigorous vinyassa flow. Sometimes it might be some Scaravelli inspired spine lengthening. Another time there may be no physical movement at all just some well overdue radical rest in the form of Yoga Nidra.
This is the magic of Yoga; its so adaptable but you have to know what you need before you can prescribe the appropriate style of practice for that day. Arbitrarily forcing your body to do a vigorous vinyassa sequence if you are potentially nursing an illness or injury is just harmful and contradicts one of the pillars of Yogic philosophy AHIMSA or non-harming.
On the other hand you might wake up thinking you’re going to be feeling rubbish all day because you have a bit of a sore throat and slept badly. Actually when you stop, get on your mat, breathe, move and turn your attention inward, you might realise that you’re in better shape than you thought and end up ten rounds into Surya Namaskar A.
Its a bit like re-calibrating yourself each day, that to me is what Yoga is. My opportunity to evaluate the state of my inner world each day. I can then use the tools that Yoga provides to enhance, release, energise or nurture myself accordingly and prevent unnecessary injury or stress.
Have you re-calibrated your Yoga practice recently?