Yoga is a practice that allows us to learn about ourselves by incorporating the awareness of our ego. We speak of it constantly, but it still finds ways to endlessly chatter in our ears – oftentimes through yoga injuries. Even though we become more aware, it doesn’t mean it leaves; it just means the chatter is clearer.
I’ve battled trying to control it, but it has becomes a practice in itself. Some days I listen to my body when I feel like the backbend might be too deep. I honor where I am in my practice, back off and settle in a less straining pose. Some days my ego takes over, and I leave a class feeling achy and sore. I’ve strained my asana practice and attempt poses that are out of my physical practice. Why? Because I want to.
For me, it got me in trouble. It wanted me to practice constantly. If not twice a day, I surely needed to have one long, hard, sweaty practice. I was proud of my dedication and even more so proud of being healthy and fit. In retrospect, I had become dependent and obsessive. I thought about asanas and how to be “better” at them. I thought yoga was the hours I spent on my mat moving my body.
My ego crept up and left me with a wrist injury from yoga that would last way longer than was welcome. What started as a huge inconvenience became an integral part of my growth as a practitioner.
Despite what you see on a regular basis, yoga isn’t about the poses. Instagram is flooded with artistic photos of poses in exotic places. Mainstream media advertises the physical practice with class specials and studio openings. Yoga has become the time spent on your mat in a studio. The hour practice takes up a small fraction of your day; time carved out to practice our mindfulness and conscious breathing. We leave and fall back into our normal routine.
We’ve all found ourselves comparing our practice with the person in those photos on social media. We allow our ego to become our voice of reason and spend our energy on nailing the next arm balance. We lose focus of other important parts of yoga: love, nonviolence and truthfulness. The physical practice is only a projection and moving meditation of what’s going on inside. Allow it to be about what’s going on on the inside and not what you want to see on the outside.
You’ve heard it a million times, but what better lesson to support it? Nobody wants to suffer from a yoga injury, and oftentimes it can be avoided.
Our ego’s chatter can be minimized if you find contentment in your personal practice. So your forearm stand isn’t as steady as the girl in the YouTube videos, but who cares? That’s her practice, and this is yours. Both are valid and both are yoga.
The strain you feel in your hamstrings or the aches you feel in your thoracic spine are not a package deal when you sign up for you membership to Yoga. Focus on what’s muscle soreness and what is causing pain. Just because you mind is yapping away about how it wants you to nail a new pose, give your body some more credit. It’s its own machine and needs its voice to be heard just as much. Bring attention to creating the harmony between both voices to work toward a necessary balance.
Sure, the time you walk out of your studio until you return the next day is important, but even more is the longer space you give yourself. This means the time spent taking away from the physical practice. Try taking a few days off, maybe even a week. Maybe longer.
Yoga teaches us about the importance of space and its role in growth. For example, during a class a teacher may instruct you to create the space in your belly to affect the deepness of your twist; both parts are equally essential. It is a physical representation of the importance of space.
A break from your physical practice doesn’t mean you’re not practicing at all. Supplementing it with time off is helps deepen your practice and heal the parts of your body that might be aching for a break or have previously gotten injured.
Take a day off or curl up with a movie or a book you’ve been meaning to read. Let yourself sit with no intention other than to settle that chatter. Embrace the space, nurture yourself with journaling and meditation and heal.
Easier said than done, but an injury affects every other part of your life. Whether you like it or not, you have cleared open space to focus on slowing down. Instead of pushing yourself in a more powerful flow, slow it down. Moving in unison with the person next to you or the rest of the class is a powerful feeling, however honoring your practice is priority.
Injuries are a lesson that stresses the need for awareness. When you’re depriving yourself of the necessary attention, your body has a way of showing you it’s time to take a break. And it’s not fun.
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