Yoga is all about the mind but the body is the material we have to work with. Asana – yoga postures, are just one part of the 8 limbed practice and where most students invest their time.
Many students come to yoga in hopes of healing their back pain, increasing their flexibility and becoming healthier and stronger overall.
So why have so many students gotten hurt or simply fallen out of love with yoga? Yoga can heal your body in amazing ways. Here’s where it may have missed the mark for you.
1. Your teacher is not that educated.
I’m sorry to put this one first but a yoga teacher training is only a 200hr course. A 200hr training is simply not enough to provide an individual with all the knowledge they need to be able to see and teach bodies. This original 200hr training also includes philosophy, history, chanting, energetics, business of yoga, breath work, and the list goes on. A 200hr training is a wonderful starting point! Don’t get me wrong. But it’s only the very tip of the iceberg and unfortunately many new teachers stop here.
If I had it my way, a teacher would not be certified without a minimum of 1000hrs of training. And that would just be the tip of the iceberg. New teachers please take this to heart. The world is your oyster with online and in-person learning opportunities. There are thousands of books to read…and of course your daily commitment to practice is important. If you’re not practicing, please don’t teach yoga.
Go find the yoga nerds as your teachers. The ones who can’t not study yoga. The ones who are always learning, always studying and always practicing. THOSE teachers will teach you well.
2. We put too much emphasis on flexibility and static stretching.
Stretching is not that important. To change a muscle quickly you need to exert 2000lbs of force on the muscle. Quick vinyasa flows and short holds will not change your muscles. It feels great and it is a healthy activity that involves some cardio and strengthening of the muscles….but you will not change all that much.
Long holds (a minimum of 2 minutes but preferably 10 minutes) will change you. Stretching under tension (think P.A.I.L.S. and R.A.I.L.S techniques from my mobility classes) and C.A.R.S which involve movement through joint space WILL change your body safely and efficiently.
This is why I teach what I do now. I teach with an emphasis on joint space first. I use props to hold you for long periods of time. I infuse classic practices with mobility and strength work because this will really help your body.
3. You’re not folding.
When we understand the concept that folding is more important than stretching, we begin to move through joint space. Most students are not flexible enough to be able to to do a lot of the expressions of asana. We aim for the “fanciest” version and are missing the mark, rounding our spines, forcing the shape and sacrificing posture and angles to be able to reach our toes.
Learning this concept from Katonah Yoga has been a game changer for me. It’s challenging because it’s a bit harder and a little humbling too. We learn what our true range of motion is and it’s a little less fancy than we would like. But if the goal is to heal our bodies….then this concept will change us.
Folding focuses on joint space and joint space is king. When we fold properly our muscles unwind and no longer bother us. We create space for our organs to function properly. We move through the old injuries and scar tissue.
4. The teacher teaches to an ideal…….not the person in front of them
“Here’s the pose, and modify if you need.” What?? Modify how???? If your teacher doesn’t very clearly tell you what to do and leaves you hanging like this that is not a good class for you.
If you’re in a public class, or a zoom class the teacher should be watching who’s in front of them and offering clear modifications.
5. Your practice is too gentle
I teach a Katonah Yoga style of restorative yoga. They believe that we aren’t looking to restore ourselves to the state we showed up in. That isn’t helpful. We’re looking to restore ourselves to the way nature created us. We’re looking for a revolution, a restoration. The goal is not to lay around and feeling nothing….the goal is not to feel pain either. The goal is to change our frame. That process can be uncomfortable. But it’s transformative.
Can laying around on pillows feeling nothing be relaxing? Of course and relaxation is very healing in its own way. This discussion is about body work though and body work involves some grit. This can also feel really really good (thank goodness) and will ultimately free us from the daily nagging of pain.
If you’re practice isn’t serving you, investigate these concepts. Know that bodies are dense and they take time to change. If you find an intelligent practice and practice it often, you WILL see amazing changes. I have healed some pretty serious injuries and postural challenges through this work and I know it can work for you too.