Monday, December 12, 2016

Some Ideas for Customizing and Enhancing your Practice

(The following comes from a recent series at the studio and explores some ways in which to tailor a practice to meet individual needs.)

-          -Remember the underlying aims of reducing suffering, discovering  your full potential, and learning to see what is truly happening AND the underlying technique of integrating body, breath, and attention with non-judging awareness.  You can bring any personal goals to the mat (flexibility, relaxation, clarity, strength etc.) to be explored through this lens. 

-         - Your teacher’s instructions are suggestions and guidelines for what works for many people much of the time.  You are the ultimate authority on what does and does not work for your body.

-          -Yoga is a preventive health tool.  Use caution and consult with your health care provider when working with injury or special circumstances.  Contrary to popular opinion, yoga is not universally “therapeutic” or relaxing.  Many techniques and postures are fairly intense practices designed to impact deeply held patterning in the body & mind, so it is important to bear this in mind and/or let your instructor know if you are working with any health conditions.

-         - Yoga should not hurt.  While some activities may produce moderate sensation and even a bit of muscle shaking, try to avoid intense sensation or working so hard that movement or breath becomes disorganized.  The body generally does not respond well to stretching or strengthening in the end range of motion.  The extreme flexibility we see in the yoga media is a holdover from a time when past generations were exploring the far reaches of energetic “freedom” or flow by working with extreme positions (activities that may have their roots in ascetic practices often intended to punish or “transcend” the body).  There is now a movement away from these extremes as the first western teachers of extreme posture work have begun to speak openly about the injuries many have experienced as a result. Working toward a normal, healthy range of motion that supports the activities you like to do in your daily life is usually a more sustainable, effective, and injury-free path.

-         - Yoga asks us to look into our habits and patterns, a process that can be uncomfortable.  It is as much about “how” we do things as “what” we do, and only you can know what is taking place internally.  If you catch yourself falling into familiar patterns (like working too hard, being self-critical, or shying away from a challenge), simply take note.  If you feel that you are getting off course or are experiencing pain or agitation, try asking  yourself “what I am actually doing?” and “what am I trying to create right now?”.

-          -Yoga asks us to consider that less can sometimes be more when it comes to creating lasting change.  Be on the lookout for subtle sensations and open to new patterns and perspectives.

~Kate Pousont Scarborough,
E-RYT 500, Director of Shelburne Falls Yoga

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