Why Practise if It Hurts Rather than Heals?
Good Question! For most people, the reason for beginning Yoga is to feel better – whether physically or emotionally. Obviously these are two sides of the same coin, but it can take a long time to realise how powerfully each affects the other. There are many different styles of physical Yoga these days but when it is instructed and facilitated as if it were a competitive sport or intense fitness pursuit, perhaps we ought to call it something else, since Yoga heals, not harms.
It is entirely possible that some of the super-fast classes geared towards short-term fitness goals (as opposed to long-term health outcomes) are just as likely to cause injury and emotional / physical stress as bootcamp. This is because so many traditional Yoga poses are actually pretty complex when broken down. Some should be avoided altogether, while others need to be totally modified in order to benefit the average stiff-hipped Western body with sore wrists, tight lower back, zero hip extension, weak neck, and shoulders that simply don’t move.
Powerful – Not Power – Yoga
In the past 20 or so years of teaching and learning, I’ve brought in more and more indistinct physiological tweaks based on what I have learned so that students leave with relaxed, long muscles that didn’t necessarily, actually feel as if they had to over-stretch to get to that point. This is because, many of the activations and subtle “bandhas” that are incorporated simply “release” tight muscles. This is far more useful and safer for your NS than stretching. This means that not only will regular attendees find themselves more flexible with an improved their range of movement, but will also end up stronger without having to make a massive effort. More for less!!
Dynamic – “Moving” – Meditation
The flowing movements are a powerful meditation – way more powerful energetically than (more) sitting and (more) thinking. Thanks to gravity and physiological bio-feedback, one-legged balances provide an “active stretch” response; building immense strength while enhancing coordination and focus.
Most importantly though, with modifications either side (and I can always help you with this if it’s not clear), I aim to offer a practise that is reasonably sustainable for most fit, active and healthy people who want to stay that way. You’ll get something out of it even if you only find time to do one class per week. Obviously more is better! The point is though, that super hard sequences or fitness practises that include arm balances, headstands and zillions of sun salutes need to be firstly, understood and secondly, practised a minimum of four times per week for at least two hours. Unless that level of commitment and consistency is possible for you, a full Astanga Vinyasa sequence will likely be impossible to master to the point that it becomes reasonably effort-less and less taxing on the body/mind.
Popping in every now and then to do something very intense and challenging doesn’t give energy, it blocks and depletes it. A little bit like doing a Marathon every month without any sort of training in between. Adrenaline, unlike “prana” is more like a sugar hit. It doesn’t last. Consistency is important, but how much time do you have for maintenance? It’s another reason why it’s far better on all levels health-wise to build resilience gradually by adding on as your level of ability naturally improves.
Observe the Yamas and Niyamas; be honest (satya), sensitive (ahimsa) and accepting (aparigraha) of where you are at and what is currently possible.
Look, I don’t know about you, but I want to maintain my mobility and strength for as long as possible. Why would I continually treat my body as if deserves to be punished and then feel surprised and sad when it gives up on me?
I hope that makes sense. It’s never possible to please everyone, but in one hour and twenty or so minutes, my aim is to offer you something that simply gives back. I am loathe to call this “Therapeutic Yoga” because to my mind, all Yoga, by it’s very nature ought to therapeutic. The fact that so much of what is described as Yoga is far from therapeutic is well worth pondering.