Sometimes yogis experience physical pain in their practices. It may frustrate or trouble them, but often they live with it. Some have even seen healthcare professionals who recommended avoiding yoga altogether. Many reject that as a possibility and continue on with the pain for the love of the practice or the necessity of their yoga teaching schedule.
Hear this loud and clear: Your yoga practice shouldn't hurt.
There is another way, and although it might involve some changes to alleviate the pain, it doesn't require abandoning the practice.
Let's begin with a few assumptions that can lead to a painful practice:
- The teacher always knows the "right" way.
- More is better.
- No pain, no gain.
Instead, what if your practice were an adventure? YOUR adventure.
- What if you focused on your awareness and intuition as you move and breathe? Yoga is a journey inward. No one else knows you better than you.
- What if you experimented with options and variations and chose what felt best in your body? It might mean less flexibility and more strength. It might mean less effort and more ease. The balance is yours to find.
- What if you pursued progressive challenges slowly over time with patience and respect for your physical, mental, and emotional health? Build gradually, and keep showing up.
What can you do if you have pain?
- If your practice is painful, try making some intuitive adjustments in your body - a shorter stance, a wider foot placement, a creative variation of the posture.
- Give yourself permission to ignore cues. Not every cue is for you, and some cues are just plain misguided. Instead of finding an instructed placement, test out a range of positions and find your ideal placement based on how it feels.
- Find teachers that encourage you to find freedom in your practice. Ask for posture modifications when you have pain. Your teacher is a guide, but the practice is yours.
- Work with a physical therapist who knows yoga. Talk about when and where you have pain. Demonstrate the movements in your practice that cause discomfort. Work together to find variations that allow you to practice without pain.
Yoga will take you on a lifelong journey and teach you things. It will help you to filter the noise, to evolve, to grow, to thrive. If your practice is painful, it's time to make a change.