Dancing on the Edge Without Going Over

I’ve missed you! I was away at a training the last couple of weeks, studying anatomy, biomechanics and fascia rolling. Throughout the days, I kept noticing the way that the yogis took care of themselves. All the participants in this training were yoga teachers. Since we teachers have adopted yoga as a lifestyle, taking care of ourselves has become top priority. We don’t think twice when changing a pose to serve what we’re dealing with in the present moment.

Currently I have a wrist injury, so I modify arm balances and work their components instead of going up on my hands. This is completely accepted by everyone in the room, as they assume I’m serving myself. No questions asked, no judgement placed. I have a little trouble with my ego, since I’ve always been a good arm balancer and I can’t do what I’m good at in front of my peers. But that’s something for me to work on. I digress… My point is, we yoga teachers are so used to this approach that we sometimes forget that our students might think they need to follow instructions, no matter what.

As yoga teachers, we want you to take care of yourselves - I’m sure you notice our mentioning to please modify when needed, do variations of poses, and don’t do anything that hurts. Though most yoga students know this, it’s worth a reminder once in awhile. Here is that reminder.

Why do we push ourselves beyond safe limits? Perhaps it’s because you were taught to do so when you played sports. Perhaps you learned to listen to the teacher and do what she says. If you’re used to an aerobics instructor pepping you up with, “feel the burn!,” then maybe you’re trying to push through pain as though it’s harmless muscle exhaustion.

The concept of ahimsa is one of our first-taught tenets of yoga. Your teacher encourages you to do no harm to yourself during your practice. But it can be hard to know when harm is happening. Over time, you become more sensitive to the feelings in your body, to the changes in your breath, and what you might deal with later for pushing through now. And yet it can still be a challenge to know when to modify, back off, or back out.

As it comes to asana - the physical limb of yoga - a good approach is to look for your edge and dance near it. This is the sweet spot, where you’ll build strength, stamina and flexibility while gathering more and more awareness - awareness that will keep you from injury. Keep in mind that emotions are affected by the physical positions as well, and you must take care of your emotional self. If discomfort becomes too much, back away, come into a position that soothes, and wait.

Yoga will only do it’s work on you when you let it. Take care of yourself to experience the freedom that yoga offers.