Last Wednesday, I put out my back while practicing yoga. [Sigh.]
As I spent Thursday and Friday in bed, getting up only to put my ice pack in and out of the freezer and to visit my Chiropractor, I had a lot of time to think about what led up to my injury. As usual, it all came back to one of the many lessons that yoga teaches us–listen to your body.
In every class that I teach, I preach this simple idea. I remind students over and over again to listen, to truly listen, and then to give your body what it needs, not what is habit or what you think you need.
So, when my back hurt while teaching last week, and I ignored it to continue demoing an advanced pose, or when I got home from teaching but was too tired to ice (even though I knew I should), or when I actually felt a LOT of pain while practicing, but kept on practicing because I didn’t want to leave class, I wasn’t listening. Or, I was listening, but then ignoring what my body had to say. Not smart–especially for someone who spends every single day telling people to do the opposite. But what can I say? I’m only human, and we teachers struggle with all of the issues that we teach in our classes; After all, you can only teach that which you know and understand.
Every time that we step onto our mat, we have a choice: Will I listen and then act today, or will I listen and then ignore, push ahead, and maybe, push too far? It sounds simple, but is very complex, because often, there’s a lifetime worth of history that is also at play in these moments. Our past patterns tend to color every decision that we make, even our decisions on the yoga mat, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn to change by beginning to pay attention to those patterns.
So, here’s my challenge to you for this week: Listen and then act on what you hear or feel. As I learned last Wednesday, it’s not enough to just listen–you have to actually do what your body tells you to do–even when your body tells you to stop practicing asana (so sad!).
As I get back to practicing this week, I’m going into it with a very different attitude. Slow movement, no deep forward folds, no deep backbends, no intense core work, no deep twists, and LOTS + LOTS of listening (and Balasana!).
Maybe someday I’ll actually learn to practice what I preach, but until then, I’ll be the one practicing my Ujjayi pranayama on the Chiropractor’s table…