Increasingly, we hear about injuries from doing yoga. Yoga schools are steadily pumping out new teachers who have, ahead of them, much experience to gain and seldom with opportunity to shadow a senior teacher. Then there are the really large classes where the teacher can not possibly oversee every student, and though this is not what yoga is all about, we start to compete, or compare ourselves, with others in the room. We become more focused on what is going on outside of us than in, which can lead to injury.
For this reason, it is that much more important to use that class to do what yoga asks us to do: go inward and connect with our breath and our body.
It is not time to look around to see how we compare to the person next to us or to attempt the poses without minding what our body has to say about them. Yoga is an invitation to be more proactive and inward-focused than that.
Learn to love yourself.
Step one: understand that what you pay attention to is what you love. Pay full attention to yourself while you are on the mat. It can be difficult, yes, but as Yogi Bhajan said, fake it 'til you make it.
This means connect with your breath and body. Either the breath will follow mind and body (which is autonomic), or the mind and body will follow the breath (which requires attention). Develop the latter, making the breath full, expansive and complete.
Step two: understand that the instructor is there to show you the ideal (and sometimes his or her ideal) and that there is the real, which refers to your current capacities and limitations.
Your real is what you want to pay attention to with loving kindness. These limitations can be physical or mental, and they can change from day to day. The goal is not to perfectly mimic the instructor or the student next to you but to pay attention to your own real.
Challenge yourself towards the ideal, where you will find yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. At the same time, honor yourself to know how far beyond that point you can go. Overwhelm invites injury. Often, this line between challenge and honor can be invisible to the instructor and can take you too far if you let her.
Step three: be totally okay with where you are today. Move at the pace that is right for your body. Only you will truly know what that pace is. The instructor is there to challenge and encourage you to go further. This does not mean she knows your story.
Step four: know that yoga is a continuous practice in delving deeper. Continue to find that evolving line between challenging yourself and honoring where you are. Cultivate self-awareness through the breath, and in time, it will become stronger and more instinctual, and the communication lines between the body, mind and spirit more spontaneous and aligned.
In the end, while the instructor serves to guide and inspire, it is up to you to gain ready access to your inner teacher.
May the Pure Light within you guide your way on. Sat Nam.
Kundalini Yoga Quotes:
“I’d never felt anything like it; it was just an opening of energy and a feeling of such liberation.” -Marika Bethel, owner, Glowing House