Monday, May 16, 2011

Yoga After A Break

A few months away from Yoga and my body (and mind) feel rusty and slightly out of gear. Trying to return to the practice is always hard, especially after an illness or loss of internal balance. Our normal routines often make us forgetful of how stiff and rigid we keep ourselves (especially the major joints - the hips, knees, shoulders) and how irregular our breathing is.

While trying to return to asana practice, one tends too think too much. Will I be able to do this so soon? Shall I attempt this - or wait? What is that twinge I am feeling? Will I get injured? These are natural reactions and it is always better to be cautious and go slow rather than try and push the body too hard, too soon.

I find that much of the time, it is simpler not to attempt to answer these questions with the rational, thinking mind. It is not too difficult to get an idea of one's internal energy levels - if you wake up refreshed (or feeling comfortable) in the morning and feel like stretching and moving, it is time to get back to the asana practice. One has to push through the stiffness and doing unfamiliar movements is tiring, but on the whole, one should feel relaxed and well stretched, not completely drained out at the end of the practice. Focussing mentally on parts that are stiff or weak initially is helpful to loosen them, but this results in a neglect of other parts or aspects of the posture. I find it best to keep my mind blank (as much as possible) and focus on feeling the asana as a whole, the intention being to relax, breathe deeply, remove areas of tension and keep the body properly weighted, balanced and stretched. At these times, the mind and feelings work together over different parts of the body and one can loosen and relax as a whole. The other advantage of not thinking is that one does not create mental barriers due to fear of injury - the movements then are not jerky and limited but smooth and free flowing. The stiffness or weakness in the body is often less than one imagines or fears - and an uncluttered mind results in less resistance and pain. And if something is not to be done, your body will unhesitatingly tell you so - not in the form of twinges that vanish once the posture is released or the quivering of weakened muscles, but as an intense pain or feeling of extreme discomfort.
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