Adapted from Karen Fabian:
"If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you." "You are beautiful and perfect just as you are." These are just a couple of concepts that I often teach on. Please read on to discover how you can learn to love yourself and your practice even more.
Sometimes when we practice yoga, it’s all we can do to get to the mat. We start practicing, our body is tired, our minds wander and we’re distracted and not focusing on the mind/body connection. Even in the best of practices though, we may also feel somewhat disconnected. We’re dealing with information overload: between social media, the news, our personal schedules and any pains in our body that may have disrupted the passage of messages from our heads to our body.
It’s important to hear the messages our body is sending. This can be the difference between feeling good and feeling great. Sometimes our body is sending us messages but we’re not clear on what to do because we’re new to the pose or to yoga in general.
So, inspired by these thoughts, here are 10 things that may pop up in your sensory body that might be worth listening to:
Is Downward Dog supposed to hurt my hands so much?
From a teacher’s perspective, this is one of the most common messages I’ll bet your body may be sending you, but you’re not sure what to do. If you’re new to yoga and feeling this, you’re probably wondering how anyone could enjoy this pose.
Bend your knees and leverage pushing down into your palms to literally rebound up the sides of your body, pushing your hips up and back. Remember to keep your knees bent a little so that you can draw the weight out of your hands and into your legs. Do this with great awareness so as not to overstretch the hamstrings or create tension in the low back or shoulders.
How can I stop my arm from shaking in Side Plank?
Here’s another pose-related message that I frequently see students struggle with while in class. Turning to the side puts tremendous pressure on the shoulder. Unless the shoulder is stacked over the wrist and/or the knee is down, you may experiences shaking in the supporting arm. Take this modification and you’ll experience less shake while building more strength.
It’s so hard to hold this Triangle Pose. This can’t possibly be right. Triangle pose is a stretch for the inner thighs and sides of the body but it’s hard to experience that sensation if you’re hanging over the front of your leg. Feeling good in this pose is additionally complicated by placing a block in front of the foot instead of behind it. In order to create the alignment of your joints needed to be comfortable, only bring your hand down as far as you can keep the upper body aligned with the front thigh. With this alignment, you’re not fighting gravity and can experience great stretch.
Why is it so hard to reach this block? This is hardly helpful. I often see people grab a block and the lose alignment by placing it too low or struggling to reach it with their fingertips versus using two or turning it on the higher end. Blocks are meant to give you greater stability not create more struggle. Listen to those messages and use more or turn them on their shorter sides.
My hamstring feels like it’s going to pop right out of my body. In our zeal to create flexibility, we may sometimes ignore the messages our body is sending us to let us know that we’re pushing too hard. Muscles should feel stretched evenly throughout the muscle but not to a point where we feel a strong sensation at the beginning or end of the muscle. Bend the knees or make other modifications to the part of the body in question to lessen this sensation.
I can’t breathe. Heated power classes can sometimes result in this feeling and can create anxiety for students. Even in non-heated classes, a crowded class or one where a student is experiencing anxiety for other reasons (yoga-related or otherwise) can trigger a sense of panic. Take a moment to listen to this message. Rest in Child’s Pose. Leave the room for a breather if you feel you need a break but do so mindfully.
I’m so tired. Sometimes, our practice helps us realize we’re really tired. While this seems obvious, as people often complain all the time about how tired they are, this is a deeper awareness; one that only comes after some time on the mat. It can be deep to the level of the bones or may just be an awareness that our mind is constantly moving.
During practice, modify and take time to rest. Give up the urge to keep up or compete with those around you. Meditate at the end of class on what else is going on in your life that could be contributing to this feeling.
Why am I having such a hard time keeping up? In any class we may feel the urge to keep up with those around us. In the midst of doing this, we may feel discouraged and start hearing voices that tell us we’re not good enough or ready for yoga. In these times, we need to practice compassion for where we’re at in our practice. We need to look for ways to make the practice fit our body as it is right now and let go of the need to compete.
I bet I could do this pose. Just as we need to allow for rest and compassion, we also need to listen to that inner voice, as small as it might be, that we could actually do the pose that is being presented. I know lots of students who think they can’t do a particular pose because they’re new, or not flexible or not strong enough. It’s only through trying that we will ever know. Bring your healthy attitude and see what’s possible.
I really feel good. Sometimes it’s easy to look at the glass as half full. We wanted to do a particular pose; we wanted to feel particularly graceful and did not. But sometimes, in the depths of our final rest, we may hear a voice that says, “ I feel great.” This is the magic of yoga.
Listen to that voice and from it, draw strength. You are beautiful, you are strong and you are perfect just as you are.