- Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 08:56
My main touchstones are:
No discomfort, no gain. (Pain is a bad sign. Discomfort is good.)
Find the happy medium.
Let go of what you don't need.
I'm a strong believer that every body is different. This goes beyond different levels of flexibility and strength, beyond our histories of injuries and surgeries. Our very bones are different. The proportions, the shapes. The way we move, the limits that our bones put on us are different.
The result, when it comes to our yoga poses, is that each of us must find our own version of it. There's no need to compare ourselves to some cover model. We find the asana that works for our body, today.
I use a lot of props. Mats, of course. But also blankets, blocks, bolsters, and straps, as needed. Sometimes part of our practice is letting go of the idea that we don't need props.
The 'mindful' in 'mindful yoga' is there because I believe that we need to bring awareness to our bodies. Sometimes there's a temptation to 'zone out' when exercising so that we don't feel the discomfort. This is dangerous! We've got to keep our attention on our body, on what we're doing, on the feedback we're getting, so that we know when the discomfort crosses over into pain.
Focusing on the body gets you out of your 'head.' By that, I mean that you stop thinking the same thoughts over and over in your head and start thinking about the here and now, actually paying attention. And the more you pay attention to the present, the better you get at it. And the more present you are, the less anxious you are about the future.
The less anxious you are about the future, the less you're operating out of your fight-or-flight response. When we're stressed, sometimes we're like a deer in the headlights, stuck between fight and flight. The rest of the time we're fighting or running away. But when we let go of the stress, you can see that there are more than two undesirable options, and it's easier to see the right path and flow into it.
The first step in letting go of our stress is knowing that it's there. Sometimes, we've lived with the stress for so long, it seems totally normally. We become desensitized and don't even notice it anymore. If you don't notice it, you can't decide whether or not to let go of it. (Sometimes we decide to stay tense. As with all defense mechanisms, it has a time to be used and a time to let it go.)