For all you die-hard beginner yogis and meditators out there this one’s for you.
How mindful are you when it comes to your asanas? I’m not talking about whether or not you pay attention to the teacher. I’m speaking to how far you push yourself when in Warrior 3, Crescent, or Camel pose. As most people know, yoga is helpful on both the physical and mental levels as well as the spiritual plane. That said, without a clear intention as to why you practice yoga in the first place, you run the risk of getting seriously hurt.
This LA Yoga Magazine post from Rachel Krentzman discusses her experience with a lack of inner awareness that ultimately led her to injury. Although the herniated disk set her back, there’s always a silver lining.
Through meditation, Krentzman began to reflect on why the injury had occurred. What she found was that her need for perfection had gotten in the way. She realized that the competitiveness she experienced on the mat was parallel to a similar sense of competitiveness and lack of compassion and understanding when not in the yoga studio. As a result, she changed her yoga practice approach.
The injury and my subsequent self-inquiry forced me to look closely and honestly at the way I was practicing yoga and living my life. I became aware that I was performing asana (postures) the way I thought they should look. I was missing an inner awareness of how each pose could serve me and my body. I would repeatedly overextend my lumbar spine while avoiding opening up tight areas in my body, namely my hip flexors and external hip rotators. I also have a mild scoliosis, which creates some restriction in my thoracic spine. In backbends, I continuously used the flexibility in my lower back to push into what I perceived was a deeper pose, instead of backing off to create more movement in my chest and upper back. In addition, I was not engaging my lower abdomen correctly, which contributed to constant compression in the lumbar spine. I was able to practice, even with this imbalance, for a number of years until the straw broke the camel’s back. I herniated a disc after performing a deep forward bend.
My experience led me to develop a growing awareness that injuries are not necessarily caused by a specific pose or even the yoga; rather it is the way one consistently practices over time that creates the problem.
When I examined how I approached my life, I was forced to recognize the competitiveness I had with myself both on and off the mat. I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember and although competition can be healthy, it can be accompanied by self-directed violence and aggression when motivated by a feeling of not being good enough. In this case, I was never fully present in the moment because of constant striving for my perception of a ‘better’ version of the pose, and ultimately myself.
Read more from Krentzman on checking in with yourself and your yoga practice intentions here.