Tag Archives: asana

Dear Yogini

Yesterday a new student came to class.  She mentioned that she has done tons of yoga over the years.  Recently she had taken an advanced class with a studio in town and in her words she “tried to keep up”.  Turns out she re-injured her shoulder.

“I didn’t know yoga could be such hard work,” she said.

Ok… so many things to discuss from our 5 minute interaction.

Here it goes….

Yes Asana practice (yoga postures) can be challenging.  Whoever told you yoga was easy was wrong!  I’m not sure where this type of thinking began, but I will say it’s not easy regardless of the class you are in.

The Sutras speak of holding postures with “Steadiness and ease.”

Ease… not easiness….

Whether we are not being present enough (which really is key to this discussion) or the posture is beyond us – it is work.  And some days will be better than others as we experience the ebb & flow of the practice.

We should never push our bodies further than they are ready to go.  Never ‘try’ to keep up with an advanced class.  We really need to learn to listen to the body.

I say all the time (to the point I’m sure I sound like a skipping CD) “We must be students of our body.”  Just because the Yogi or Yogini beside you can touch the floor in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Play with the edge of your stretch, your openness and never go deeper than is appropriate for you.

So many of us work with the ego rather than the body.  It’s the whole, “WOW.. LOOK what I CAN do!” analogy.  Later that day or within a few days DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness) sets in and we wonder what we did.

Cursing the teacher in the back of our minds everytime we bend or twist.  It’s easy to drop into the blame game, “They pushed me too hard!”

Really?

In reality you pushed yourself too hard.

You weren’t listening or if you were you weren’t hearing.

Remember to approach every yoga class with a beginner’s mind.  Even if you’ve heard the instructions 40 million times, you need to remember that today is not yesterday.  Just because you could do something on the mat yesterday doesn’t mean you can today (or that it’s right for you today).  Learn to be present.  To engage in the now.

PS.  Oh yeah and…We should always tell the teacher what is going on.  This is key.  Chances are this woman would not have re-injured her shoulder if she had told the teacher of its weakness beforehand.  And if you do hurt yourself in class… again talk to the teacher about it.  I’m sure whomever taught this “advanced” class would not be happy to hear the person got injured.  However, if it does happen talk to the teacher.  Based on their experience and the issue…. remember we aren’t magicians; they should be able to help you on your path to recovery.

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When Will I Get Good at this?

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A question I often hear in yoga class is “When will I get good at this?” We are referring to the physical postures here. Here is my response:

Getting ‘good’ at yoga is something to NOT strive for. Being present is. The most impressive yogi or yogini is one who is fully aware of their body and being fully present within it.

Flexibility will come with time. We need to remember that yoga is about balance and has nothing to do with being flexible. The flexibility is simply a by-product of the practice. As they say in the Sutras “Practice with steadi-ness and with ease.”

Release the need to struggle with your practice. Release the struggle with your body. That truly is key.

Those who are less flexible are made to be more present. A profound statement, isn’t it? Some would very likely to disagree, however here is the reasoning behind it….

Those who are very flexible are less likely to listen to the body. Why? They can always go deeper into the postures. This isn’t always necessarily a good thing as injury can result.

Those who are inflexible have no choice but to listen. Their bodies tell them as they spill forward into janu sirasana (seated forward bend) there is a limit to what they can do. Hamstrings probably scream-ing, “NOOOOO!” In this way they are forced to be more present. They have no choice but to listen to what their body has to say.

Even looking at Savasana (corpse pose) can show us many of the issues we face on a daily basis. How often have you came to savasana and not been able to relax? It hap-pens. The conscious relaxation process takes time to learn. And you will have good days and bad days. It is the ebb and flow of the practice. This is key to keep in mind during your personal or public yoga classes…. It is a practice.

So to sum things up when will you get good at it? When the time is right. When you are able to fully ‘be’ on the mat with yourself and not get drawn into distraction.

Public classes are places where distraction can be everywhere; traffic noises from the street, people coughing (or emitting other bodily noises… yes this happens in every yoga class); even the music can be distracting.

Remember you are a spiritual being having a physical experience and cut yourself some slack.

Be fully with your body and connect with the breath.

Remember as Rodney Yee says, “If we are not focusing on the breath and simply moving we may as well be doing gymnastics.”

To sum up….

Breathe, be and enjoy the gift of your presence.

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