Yoga: Knowing Your Style/Limits

Hi everyone. I’ve been “away” for a while. I started a new job last Monday, and as you can imagine, it was intense going from 3 months of unemployment to full time. I’m learning a whole new set of people, politics, environment, etc. The first few days were difficult, and I felt this scary hole in my foundation as I felt my mind going into that habit of over-analyzing: “nobody knows me here or what I can do. Will I be here for the rest of my life? Is this it?” Of course, meditation and yoga are the keys to getting connected back to your real self. Now, I won’t say I was a perfect yogini, and that I didn’t have a glass of red wine now and then or retreat a little bit into the arms of my husband while we lie on the couch watching TV. I didn’t do meditation/yoga EVERY day as I should…but I did do SOME. I took several classes, did some asanas at home, most of all, concentrated whenever I could on my pranayama to help calm down my nerves. It has been a bit hectic with this job and two other contract jobs I am trying to complete on the side. Things should calm down by next week.

I wanted to mention that while there are many styles of yoga (kundalini, bikram, etc) to enjoy, and that should be explored, be HONEST with yourself about what you are looking to get out of yoga and what your limitations are. For somewhat athletic, competitive types like me, the temptation in classes has been to “show off” that I can do any pose. Now I listen to my inner intuition, and I back off of certain exercises that I think could cause harm. I have to say as I am exploring more classes around the city and the style of different teachers, I’m a bit surprised at some of the sequencing and aggression of the poses. My main concern with my students is to not cause harm, so I am very conscientious of creating smooth transitions, setting up a foundation, not rushing, watching the students to see if they are in proper form and not struggling…and always giving alternatives to the poses. I’m not always seeing a focused connection with teacher-students.

Last night I attended a Kundalini class…evening Kundalini classes are usually not good for someone like me with a lot of energy and revved-up nervous system. I often have spent the whole night awake after them. This class was a bit more mild than the typical Kundalini class. We did a rolling exercise where we held on to our toes while rolling all the way back into plow pose and forward into a forward seated fold. We did this for about 3 minutes, and I modified the kriya by often laying my arms palms down flat on the floor to give my lower back support. My lower back is a very sensitive area. Well, today, even with taking care, slowing down modifying, I am having some touches of sciatica zapping down my right leg. I”m confident it will go away by tomorrow…but this is just an example of someone who (most people think at least) is pretty athletic, flexible and advanced in yoga experiencing a bit of pain as a result of doing something not too great for her particular body. last week I tried a class at a studio downtown and the instructor bounced and boinked so quickly through sun salutation after sun salutation. I did mine much slower, so I could focus on integrating my core and strengthening my arms as I went down into chatturanga.

So, do not HESITATE to 1) decide what you want from yoga and choose an appropriate style. If you have problems with anxiety, you might do better with a soothing, restorative Hatha class. If you want to really sweat out toxins, exert a lot of strength and are motivated toward pure fitness, try Bikram. Perhaps heart-opening Anusara will help you shed some anger or depression. Your experience in a class will vary with the studio and instructor, too. But you will eventually find a combo that works for you. 2) in any class, if you feel too much discomfort or pain, back off. You may be able to pull off something impressive during class, but think about how you will feel the next few days? 3) in class, ask your teacher for a modification to the asana if it is too intense 4) use your intuition–you may know right away that a kriya or asana is probably going to tax your body too much…or might not be suitable for where you are physically/psychologically that particular day. There is a reason that inner voice speaks up!

McKenna Rowe is the Founder of Chakra 5 Mobile Yoga, an experienced team of corporate yoga instructors that provides mobile yoga classes on location and by appointment at businesses, schools and organizations throughout greater Los Angeles. Call us to start your corporate wellness program today: 310-853-3885.

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