Friday morning’s YaYaYoga is a great place to take a bit of yoga from the asana (movement) practice to conversations about yoga (life in general). This past Friday, we talked about some of the aspects of “doing yoga” that might not be so healthy or even harmful. Let’s talk about this.
First, all yoga isn’t the same and thinking that it is can get into trouble. If we assume that all yoga is “yoga” and that all yoga is a healing practice, we’re going to be disappointed. Yoga tends to get lumped together into one big group of, well, “yoga”. Yoga for a healthy, fit human body is very different from yoga for an unbalanced, unfit, and maybe not-so-healthy human body.
Maybe you’re recovering from an injury, or you’re “feeling your age”, or struggling with life stresses, or dealing with depression/anxiety, or trauma, or addiction recovery, or dealing with a chronic illness, or whatever and your doctor, or someone else, says: “Yoga might help.”
What does that mean? The above examples are very different with very different needs.
You go to the first yoga class you see that fits your schedule and it feels awful. You decide that yoga is not going to work for you. People suggest yoga again and you say, “I tried that, it was awful.” You may not be getting something that could be super supportive because you didn’t get all the information you needed to make an informed decision (or even had a clue there’s different yogas).
Maybe you went to a class intended for students to challenge themselves to discover how far they can take variations of poses and you needed to nurture an injury. Maybe you went to a yoga class to sweat out excess gunk (depleting) and you needed restful/nourishing (building) yoga. Maybe you found a class that adds beer or goats to cultivate fun/conversation/giggles and you needed to learn to listen to your own mind. All potentially great yoga classes, but not what these examples need.
All yoga is not the same.
This is why I love the complementary practices of yoga and Ayurveda. For me, Ayurveda is what turns yoga into a healing practice. I feel that without Ayurveda, you’ve only got half of the picture…they are complementary sciences/practices. Although I also firmly believe that yoga itself is for everyone…you simply have to find the right teacher, the right class, and the right daily practice support your needs. That’s going to be different for each of us; we’re each unique. We’ll talk about blending Ayurveda tips with yoga in another post that’s right behind this one (Aging with your Yoga Practice is coming).
A few questions to ask yourself: what are you looking for in your practice? Are you coming into a class to recover from injury? Then the class that challenges you to see how far you can take a pose is probably not your class. If you’re feeling depleted and stressed a hot, sweaty yoga class can potentially deplete you more, which means your body will be even more stressed. If you’re looking to explore the meditative side of yoga for inner peace, then a lively beer or goat yoga is probably not what you need.
The other thing about yoga, is that absolutely you can hurt yourself in it. If we pretend it’s only going to heal and never hurt, we’re not actually looking at the social media, advertising of yoga. Those deep poses can hurt. Learning to do them can cause injury. Doing yoga wrong can have long term damaging effects, just like any other “sport”. Overdoing it to get somewhere can be not so good.
Back to healing, here are some hints for your practice: Find the right teacher for your needs. Find the right frame of mind and find the right practice for you (remember, we don’t do yoga, we practice yoga).
Find your Edge, the mental and physical. The body doesn’t lie, but you have to learn to listen to it. If you feel tingling, pain, or you think you might be overstretching, you’ve passed your healthy Edge. It might be a misalignment (especially tingling; the next Yoga and Ayurveda Blog Post will talk more about this) so come out of the pose and realign. It might be something stuck: tension or knots, so come out and realign. When in doubt release a pose and come back into, maybe not quite so deeply or come out of it completely and rest in another pose/seat. I promise you, the poses will be there and you will find a better, more healthy, version of the pose if you don’t force it.
Ease back…yoga is a lifelong practice not a temporary goal. That’s Ego. That’s Obsession. That’s not healthy. How you practice yoga is as important, if not more so, than everything else (that’s another blog post: How You Practice). Even if you have no other choice than to attend a class that doesn’t quite suit your needs, modify to meet your needs. You don’t have to do what’s being offered and you never have to accept an assist (yoga teachers are trained NOT to be offended if you decline, truly, it won’t upset them). It’s your practice.
It’s your practice!!!