But how do we keep our practice injury free? Here are a few tips:
ALWAYS BREATHE, AND BE PRESENT
When we are breathing, noticing our breath and present in our bodies we are very aware of what we are doing and can therefore feel if something does not feel good or if we are pushing too far. As soon as we start thinking about our to do list, that email we received earlier etc we stop being present, we stop being aware and we can easily injure ourselves. Generally if breathing becomes difficult in a pose it means that you may have come a little bit too far into the pose. Poses should always feel steady and comfortable. ALWAYS!
JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DO SOMETHING, DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN YOU SHOULD
Recently in my own practice this has been coming up again & again. Just because technically you 'can' get into this particular pose, does not mean you should be doing it. When we first start practicing yoga we sometimes surprise ourselves about the things we can do with our body. It can be a boost to the ego and getting into these poses is a fun challenge that the ego pushes however as my practice has progressed I have learnt that just because I can does not mean I should. Two questions to ask yourself in any pose are: Am I in alignment? and does this feel good?
As a yoga teacher, I sometimes, probably wrongly, feel like I should be able to do everything, but the truth is I am just a normal person - I get pain in my lower back sometimes, I suffer from tight shoulders and hips when I spend too long at the computer and I am not a naturally flexible person. Yoga has helped me hugely with these issues, and continues to which is why I decided to share the gift of yoga and it's power to heal not it's power to injure. Getting to the flexibility I have today has taken dedication - it does not come naturally and I still have a long way to go. Any students of mine may have recently noticed that I no longer sit in lotus position, not because I can't but because when I am really present and listening to my body I know this pose does not feel comfortable on my knees yet. This is not healing and nourishing my body. My hips are not yet open enough for the pose so the twist is coming from my knees. So for the mean time I choose to focus on opening my hips to be able to get there eventually.
It's important to remember that just because I, or any other teacher is leading you through a sequence of poses, if one does not feel right for you then you should not do it. Even if every other person in the room is doing it, it doesn't matter. Every single body is different and only you know how it feels for you.
All you really have to do is let your body & your breath guide you in your practice as opposed to your ego. Honouring the teacher that is in YOU!