Think back to your sex education class in elementary school and the push for “safe sex.” Well, that’s exactly what I’m advocating here, except we’re talking about yoga. I am adamant about not forcing a yoga pose in my classes. If you’re going to practice yoga, do it mindfully.
I had a conversation with another yoga teacher recently about how he got injured in yoga years ago.
At the time, he was really into an intense yoga practice and pushing beyond his limits. He was reaching his arm around his back, his teacher made a slight adjustment with her leg, and then pop. He knew his shoulder was broken.
I had my own experience with injury in a yoga class after attending an advanced master class with a prominent yoga teacher in one famous yoga studio. I tried to keep up with the pace of the class, but...the class was more advanced than I expected. The yoga teacher remarked on my extended side angle pose, saying I was “wasting time.” He twisted me a little further and I heard my back pop and felt a sharp pinch. I walked away from this painful and humiliating experience learning a few hard lessons. Forcing yourself into a yoga pose is never a good thing!!
Yoga is not meant to be practiced that way. It’s about focusing on the correct posture and breathing, and being in acceptance.
I try to instill this in my yoga students more than obtaining a pose(only position). Challenging yourself is great, but forcing is an entirely different mentality. This is a tangible concept you can incorporate into your everyday life, not just in yoga.
Here are a few tips I’ve come up with for safely practicing yoga:
Find a yoga teacher who uplifts, encourages, and safely guides you into furthering your yoga practice.
If your teacher spends more time showing off her yoga skills rather than helping, you may want to look around.
Notice your yoga teacher’s own limitations and how he or she handles them. We all have limitations, but it’s just a matter of how to work through them. Work with a teacher who helps you grow, not go.
Fewer egos are more in yoga.
Focus on the breath.
I can’t say it enough in my yoga class. If you’re not breathing, then you’re forcing it. It’s our job as yoga teachers to help you breathe. Learning how to breathe in life is going to be a much bigger asset than learning how to stand on your head. Breath is more in yoga.
Be in acceptance and honor your body.
Work with the limitations you are given and take baby steps towards your goals. We may have injuries, weaknesses, and issues that we have to contend with in our yoga practice.
Yoga is being in a place of acceptance exactly where we are at right now. It helps to stay positive and envision yourself where you want to be. Remind yourself that you’re exactly where you need to be at this moment. Acceptance is more in yoga.
When you see your yoga neighbor contorting and you feel that tinge of jealousy, hold back. Notice and appreciate how beautiful the pose is and set the intention that you would like to be there someday. Go within and try to live in the space of loving yourself and those around you. You will get there when it is time. You are exactly who you need to be in this moment. You don’t earn medals in yoga.
Be patient with yourself and your yoga practice. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you progress in your practice. Surprisingly, I find that I progress even quicker when I focus on my breath and allow things to happen rather than force. That’s just a life principle that works with the flow of life. Enjoy the journey in yoga.