Yoga is a beautiful practice. The asana, or the movement portion of the practice and also known as 1 of 8 limbs of our yoga practice, can be over-abused, and thought of as "the main reason" to practice. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to step on a yoga mat and practice asana to stretch, gain strength and flexibility, lose some weight or get you into the zone or into the meditative state. The latter being one of the goals the asana practice is creating! But the bigger picture needs to come into play here. Remember yoga as being "mind, body, spirit" connection. In yoga, we want to yoke or unite these three aspects of ourselves so that we can ultimately become more present with ourselves. (And hopefully we can take these aspects off the mat into our everyday lives--but that's another story. ;)
Fast, challenging asana can be super fun, exhilarating, liberating and leave you feeling awesome! But with incorrect cueing, improper spinal and skeletal alignment, lack of muscular engagement and not connecting your breath and mind with the movement, it can cause a lot of physical problems, including tweeks and injuries in the body! Learning alignment and muscular engagement will save you time at your doctor's office and give you a safe foundation for you to move through those more challenging vinyasa classes!
I love teaching an 'align and flow' type of practice so people learn to become aware of the connection they have with their breath, mind and body. I too, like many LOVED power flow and vinyasa flow when I first started but found myself getting injuries, tweeks and strains. Because I was a dedicated yogini, I started practicing alignment-based and slower practices despite my injuries, so I could continue to get the meditative benefit. Despite my limiting beliefs about these types of practices, these practices are even *more* challenging!! (Try a Forrest Yoga class with Ms. Cheryl Deer and you will be sore for days!!) What happened when I started listening to my body as I was attempting postures is that I was able to get deeper in my practice--in my breath and body. And I was able to get into a more meditative state when doing those really hard poses--like handstand, or arm balances! I was able to calm my "fight or flight" brain state, and work through those challenging and (dare I say) scary as hell postures that I never thought I could do by practicing proper integration of muscles, energy, breath and mind into my practice.
Does this remind you of "real life"? ;) Yoga is meant to help us move through, unravel and bring light to the darkness and those scary or most challenging aspects of our lives to help us into these more calming states of being. So we can act and react from our true essence, or love. This will allow us to be our best selves in every situation we encounter, and teach us how to truly be present with ourselves.
Oh and for the record, I still practice vinyasa flow classes to this day and LOVE them, and so does my body since I integrated my alignment-based foundation to my practice! :)
Check out this wonderful article by Lauren Ohayon discussing her "fools rush in" love affair with yoga, what happened to her as a result, and how she healed herself through her yoga asana journey. Hopefully it will give you some tools on how to modify your own practice to suit *your* needs, leaving you with a clean bill of physical health, and a peace of mind.
Why I Cheated on Yoga and Loved it! by Lauren Ohayon
If you are finding you would like more yoga in your life and learn more about mind-body-breath connection, check out our Shanti Studio Yoga Schedule, or book a private yoga lesson from one of our OMazing instructors! Go to our website www.taspens.com for more details!