“Illness gives rise to the resolve to attain the way.”

-Nichiren Daishonin

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran an article “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” A huge dialogue erupted in the yoga community as a result with teachers of many different backgrounds responding strongly against the article. While I personally felt the article did not provide a well-rounded perspective, I was happy to see the dialogue that began around awareness and presence in one’s asana practice.

With an old injury flaring up the last few months, I have had the very real opportunity to be more present in my own practice. As I began to unpack why this injury had come up for me again, I realized that there were times in my practice when I wasn’t being present. And more importantly, there were times where I was fighting my own body. To go deeper in poses I was pushing right up against my edge, and when I pushed, my body pushed back. There was a state of tension in my practice that was not only keeping me from going deeper, but also aggravating old injuries. Once my injury surfaced, I had no choice but to slow down and watch my practice. As I watched, I began to notice the habits that had slowly crept into my practice when I wasn’t paying attention.

My injury is now on the mend, but I have taken these lessons with me and have found myself exploring my practice in a whole new way. Here are some recommendations for bringing this same awareness into your own practice:

  • Slow down! Even in a vinyasa class, move mindfully and slowly. Be with your body through the journey rather than rushing from pose to pose. Move at your pace, even if it slower than the rest of the class.
  • If you reach a place where there is a lot of resistance and you feel yourself trying to push through that resistance, back off, soften. Once you find this soft place start to drop back in slowly. You’ll be surprised at how much deeper you can go.
  • Notice the places you “check out” in your practice. Are you adjusting your hair or clothing when your presence is needed?
  • Be aware of your transitions. We are often more worried about getting into the pose rather than how we get there. How we get there is just as, if not more important and is often where injury can arise.
  • Become conscious of your breath at all times. It is an excellent barometer for your practice. If you notice your breath has stopped or become shallow, check in, chances are you are no longer present.
  • Enjoy!

Posted by: Megan Costello

Neighborhood Studios