As I write this, I have a bag of frozen peas strapped to my leg, icing a strained ligament in my knee. How did I strain it? Doing yoga. It was my own fault and I knew I should not have pushed it, but I did. And here I am, icing my leg and out of working out for the week (or until it heals.)
I have found a class that I love - I enjoy the teacher and it's a traditional form of yoga that helps me feel grounded and peaceful. Last week, I was thrilled when I was able to take my shoulders over my head and touch the ground (with the teacher's assistance) and at the end of class, for the first time in 12 years of practice, I found my way into full lotus. With tight hips from running, this was a huge success and I was feeling really great about my accomplishment. The next day I was a little tight in my knee, but nothing that restricted movement or caused any discomfort. Two days later, I'm back in a yoga class. Same style, different teacher and I went for the full lotus. Success! Full lotus achieved. Then, came the forward fold. And rather than listening to my tight knee and enjoying the bliss of full lotus, I went for the forward fold. Pop! Ouch. I quickly straitened my legs and immediately felt the tightening in my knee coming on. Thankfully, it was the end of class and I was able to finish up and get home to ice.
With the New Year here, I've seen, talked to and received emails from people who have shared their interest in giving yoga a try, to which I have said "do it!" For me, the benefits of yoga are immeasurable. The class forces me to be present and in the moment. I check out from the day-to-day distractions and detach from my cell phone and computer for 60-90 minutes. At the end of class, I am an all around better person, with more patience. Everyone wins.
This injury has me thinking about the basics. Whether you're new to yoga or have been practicing for 12 years like me, the guidelines are always the same.
- Listen to your body. Each and every yoga class is yours. The person on the next mat has a different life story than you, so make sure you do your class and not theirs.
- Every class is different. Some days I can balance on one leg like a champ and others I fall unmercifully. I often find my mat is an indication of where I am in my day. If I'm scattered and distracted, it will show up in my practice.
- Be present. No phone, no computer, no mental grocery list making. This is your time. Enjoy it.
- If you're new or have an injury, let the teacher know. This helps them teach as much as it helps you practice.
- Have fun. It's just YOGA! Who cares if you fall. It makes no difference if you choose Child's Pose over Downward Dog. (Also, see #1 above). Smile.
BONUS: This tip is specific to newbies. If you're new, know that there are different types of yoga: heated, traditional, vigorous, prop assisted (blocks and straps). Some yoga variations hold poses longer (strength building) while others flow quickly (more cardio). Also, know that each teacher is different, with a different style, a different voice and a different practice. If you don't like one class or a certain teacher, don't give up! There are many more out there, so give them a try!
Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below or drop me an email. I am a huge fan and can't say enough good things about yoga. Namaste.