Yoga is not pain!
Catchphrases and hashtags like ‘no pain, no gain’ or ‘feel the burn’ have no place in a yoga studio – especially not here at Hot Yoga Ibiza. Yoga is an intuitive practice and as such, students should learn to listen to their bodies and differentiate between pain and discomfort while they practice. Sure, it’s ok to push yourself – after all, pushing a little more each time you practice helps you go further into the asanas – but not to extreme limits. Never to the point of physical pain.
Sometimes, students come to class complaining they’ve had to see a chiropractor, a physiotherapist or an osteopath after their last class, and this is something that can be avoided completely if you learn to listen to what your body is telling you. The same students can be quick to blame their teachers (“They pushed me too hard.”) but the fact is, only you can really know exactly what your own body is feeling.
Your teacher is there to guide you, to help keep you in alignment, to lead you through the sequence of asanas and guide you towards meditation, but they cannot possibly be inside your body to know if you are feeling pain. An intuitive teacher will see it in your face, in your gaze or in your physical movements if something is hurting you – but by this stage, it can already be too late. The damage is already done.
So how do you learn where your limits are? It’s simple. LISTEN to your body. The line between pain and discomfort is a fine one, but it’s very important to be able to identify it. Discomfort is felt in the muscles, not the joints. Do what your body allows you to do. If you feel pain – that is, something that makes you stop and think ‘ouch, that hurts!’ – then take a step back. This is your body communicating to stop where you are. Other students around you may be able to push well beyond your abilities… and that’s ok. Remember, when teachers say ‘push’, what they really mean is ‘give your best’, not ‘push yourself to the point of extreme pain’.
For new students at Hot Yoga Ibiza (or any studio, anywhere), it is extremely important to mention any injuries – no matter how small or niggling – to me before commencing a new practice. Don’t think it will be ok, and you can just see how you get on. I can help you with any adjustments needed, and importantly, I will know what to watch out for throughout the class. There may be some positions you cannot do – and I can only advise you of this if I know about your injuries or limitations. No matter what physical condition you are in, you can still breathe and that is the very essence of yoga.
We are conditioned as children to aim to be the best at everything. But there is no ‘best’ in yoga. Yoga is not a competitive sport. It is an individual practice, although we are all in the studio together, each and every student is at a different level of physical fitness. This in turn means that each student will be in a different stage of the position they are practicing in class – you cannot practice with the aim of imitating the person on the mat next to you as it is physically impossible for all students to be at the same level. Aspiring to reach a position is one thing; hurting yourself by pushing yourself to get there is another.
When yoga was first introduced in India, it was taught on a one to one level, with each asana adapted to suit the student’s individual bodies. In today’s society, the practice has been adapted to suit groups so it is important you speak up if you don’t understand something rather than risk injury. Ask questions before class or after the class to increase your understanding of the way an asana should feel or be held. I am here to help my students, in the studio and outside the studio. Increasing your knowledge can only further assist you in reaching the position. The more you understand how your body works, and should feel, the more able you will be to identify it when you’re there.
Once you reach the full position – whether it takes you a few weeks, a few months or a few years – there is no need to push further. You are receiving all the benefits it was designed to give. If you push your body further and try a variation on the position, you risk going too far. If you push beyond your capabilities, your body will not heal before the next class, and so you end up on a downward spiral. Rather than becoming the therapeutic practice it is designed to be, yoga becomes the source of further injuries – certainly not the intention you started out with.
Feeling a connection with your body is an integral part of the practice. The only kind of pain and suffering you should endure during a yoga class is in the mind. Yoga is indeed a mental practice, and the mind is the only muscle that it is truly acceptable to push beyond its limits. There’s another catchphrase that could come in handy at this point: ‘pain is all in the mind’ – and that’s exactly where it should remain!