For every person in America who first steps onto a yoga mat in hopes of some kind of spiritual enlightenment there are probably 10, if not 100, more who come to the mat seeking relief from pain somewhere inside their physical body. I’d consider myself part of the latter group and believe a steady yoga practice helps to both heal and strengthen the body’s container.
That said, a steady yoga practice — or teaching it for that matter — doesn’t make one’s body impervious to pain. Much like any physical activity, practicing yoga may lead to the occasional ache, twinge or tired muscle.
It’s in this place where I found myself at the beginning of August when something started bothering me around my left hip — the psoas, naturally — area. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t worthy of a doctor’s visit, but nor did it feel quite “right.”
Initially I became upset, as I thought to myself, “why is that when I finally feel really good, something else crops up?”
As we know through our practice of Kripalu-based yoga, instead of wallowing in negative thoughts and or self-pity, we can use these times of inquiry to notice, explore and observe. Eventually that’s the path I chose, using one of my regular practices to notice every little movement and engagement, watching how it impacted the bothersome area.
Shining the flashlight around my body proved insightful as my body awareness expanded beyond that one area. Although I didn’t figure out a specific shape or movement that caused my discomfort, it allowed me to put my practice under the microscope.
How many times did I step back a leg into a plank or forward into a lunge on autopilot?
Was I unintentionally creating stress, along with misalignments, because my mind felt a pose had to feel a certain way?
Was I pushing beyond my “edge” to find sensation in a deep hold?
Moreso, this made me think back to trainings with William Hufschmidt and his approach to anatomy. Our bodies send out numerous “yellow lights” and, unfortunately, some “red lights” when things go awry.
The way the human mind usually works is we only pay attention to whatever new and shiny object passes through our field of vision. It’s easy to ignore the subtle yellows when they begin to flash and when we come up upon a red light it’s often too late.
Each time we step onto our mats it’s an opportunity to look and witness anew — the body will never be exactly the same as it is in that particular moment.
In short, pay attention along the road of yoga.
Mike Cardillo, RYT-200, lives and teaches yoga in Connecticut. He believes yoga is more than simply making shapes with your body.
He can be reached at yogawithmikeCT [at] gmail.com or found at Facebook.com/yogawithmikeCT