The format we have chosen for this article is a transcription of a previously recorded conversation.
Our aim is to expose our reflections and knowledge of yoga in the most natural and original way.
You can find it translated into Spanish in IgersYoga.
Nita asks: How do you approach the practice when you have a sharp pain somewhere?
Michael: I remember about 6 years back tearing my hamstring. Prior to this I had experiences of knee pain, back etc. This was when I was becoming more stablished in my practice, meaning 6 days a week. Being more consistent brought old patterns and traumas out to the surface rather quickly and my reactions to whatever was coming up at the time were still quite strong.
Now, after having more experience, when pain arises I would be more cautious. I give myself however long it takes to open up and release blockages in my body. Having a life long practice means taking responsibility. And for this to happen you need to direct your efforts to waking up.
N: Basically, practicing with pain is proportional related to the level of body control and awareness. You can practice with pain or injuries if your awareness is developed. Because it takes time and practice to get to know where boundaries are in a given moment. Or to not give up completely and say “this is not for me”, or “I am not going to practice at all while I feel pain”.
M: Initially, I had those times as well, and yes those are reactions too. These type of reactions are totally understandable. I would say specially if you are starting, not having enough experience. In this case, It’s better to stop than to push.
Over time time you develop a kind of strength and determination tied in with wisdom. Which allows you to practice in a more intelligent way. These obstacles stop being a problem and become your teachers instead.
Pain in the shoulders, in the sciatic nerve, sacrum or the thoracic lumbar junction, the neck, knees… these things they come up but if you observe, you realize that they don’t just come from the practice, but from tension you are holding in your body-mind experience.
Adding a strong practice to the tensions and negative patterns you are already holding can be pretty intense. Simply pushing through is not usually the best approach, on the contrary, it is necessary to back off. A strong practice is beneficial and useful for letting old patterns to surface, but that doesn’t mean pushing ourselves blindly or to just stupidly practice for the sake of making an ass…ana of ourselves.
I would say to the student:
Relax, step back, observe you issue, continue to practice. Continue stretching, breathing, feeling the body but in an intelligent, healthy and loving way.
N: Strong and intelligent can be easily misinterpreted.
Most of the pain, I dare to say, don´t come from the practice itself. It comes from daily life habits and patterns inherent to you. You made them yours, from the way you walk, the quality of your thoughts or, for instance, the company you surround yourself with.
One of the things I discovered while enduring different kind of pain and injuries especially in my knee, that travels to my sacrum and up, is that practicing with acute attention and precision, allows me to sense where are the boundaries. Stoping in the line between comfort and discomfort, or sometimes fully discomfort but not pain.
Just before the pain and unpleasant feeling is about to trigger, whilst consciously using the correct breathe, the mind is able to then cognize with the body, resulting in softness and lightness.
That´s how I define an intelligent practice. However, understanding it in an intellectual level is one thing, another thing is being able to integrate this intelligence into your daily practice.
Practicing strongly means having a consistent practice with determination and without giving into laziness.
Focusing in the pillars and foundations once and again. Homecoming to the practice of Suryanamaskar, regardless what is your limitation at that moment there is a high likelihood that still you can practice Suryanamaskar with full presence.
In the standing asanas, part of the primary series of Ashtanga, we encounter very soon a Half Lotus, Ardha Badha Padmasana. That´s a challenging one, a high risk of injuring yourself if you don´t know what you are doing, or if your teacher may say: just do it, without your body being naturally opened and gifted.
M: Our world don´t sit cross legged. A world that is very unfamiliar with Padmasana posture.They never had to try it in their entire lives. They have been brought up with chairs and extra comfort.
In the modern western world hips are not naturally open, obviously when you through them this kind of practice,
For instance, going to Myosre, coming with the assumption that you already can do it
, not that you need to develop. For them is obvious that you should be able to do it.
N: We are not in the East, we are not that people, so we have to keep in mind the reality. Teaching in the western world this practice asks us extra sensitivity, in the terms of being aware that most of the students won’t be able to do it. Being realistic.
M: Exactly, and thats where Idealism come into play. Is the mind body.
N: Idealism in both parties. As a student, why do you push or expect to just magically do a half or full lotus; while the teacher can be blinded by the ego and we can find ourselves asking something not real or appropriate for that student in that moment. We need to identify this.
I think is important to learn how to deal with injuries and teach the students how to avoid them. Keeping in mind, that sometimes is unavoidable.
If you would like to study with us you can check our Spanish tour and our upcoming 5 days retreat #BreathandliveYoga December Getaway