I spent the first few years of my yoga practice being told that there was one way to do each pose, that alignment was of paramount importance, and there was definite goal-orientation to get into “picture perfect poses”. A lot of the first yoga studios I first attended had their classes entirely devoted to an “apex pose”. As in: the entire class was focused on getting you into one shape. Now, I understand the idea / concept of preparing your body for a more “dramatic” posture – you could really hurt yourself if you tried to get into a shape that your body completely was not ready for. But therein lies the question: why try to put your body into a shape that it doesn’t want to be in?
In those same studios, the teachers often (with the best of intentions, I am sure) push/ “adjust” people into postures, hoping to get them “deeper into it”. In doing so, they think that they are helping, but more than once, I have been severely injured by such teachers and studios, and it happens all of the time. I imagine that it is these situations that the idea that yoga can hurt you comes from. Yoga can’t hurt you. Yoga means union: connecting to yourself. If you are connecting to/with yourself, you would never push or force, you would simply just be. Forcing and pushing are what causes the hurt.
When I came to Strala, and stopped trying to “force” my way into any shape, posture, or pose, the most amazing thing happened: I found myself in every shape imaginable without any effort. From what I have learned, if you push your body, it feels the need to defend itself, and goes into protect mode: tensing up. Once I let go of any goal or idea that I needed to be in any specific place, and started to explore, and try to find new ways to allow my body to open, many things happened: I got stronger, more open, and began to feel more at ease: on the yoga mat and off.
A few days ago, I was cleaning out my iPhoto files, and I stumbled across some yoga pictures from just before I started practicing in a more open, relaxed manner (in other words: when I was trying to force my body into what I thought poses should look like.) As it happens, I have more recent images of those same shapes the lovely Vera had taken for my blog on SHAPE Magazine. And while there are no goals, or perfect shapes, these images are incredibly telling of how far opening your mind will go to open your body, and how, by choosing a path of ease, things become easier. No force need apply.
See for yourself!