With this,my annual invitation to be cautious as we reintroduce different activities to our life each Spring season in no way do I want to communicate that we are fragile or should be afraid to move and enjoy our lives.
Instead, I also remind you that when difficulties do arise I believe it is important not to be reactive and blame any activity itself, our age or those implements we use in them for any discomfort or injury that we may sustain. The effect of this is often to reject or reduce activity itself. Instead it is important to respond responsibly to our challenges and work to recover the ability to do what we love to do. It is less likely then that instances of injury or other setbacks will over time will take us down the path to further and further limitation, injury and more chronic pain and distress.
I believe responding well to these circumstance begins with keeping firmly in mind that we are living organisms and are built to thrive on the stimulus our activity provides. We use our muscles to build strength, we move to sustain joint flexibility, metabolic balance and sustain the health and resilience of our organs and systems. Staying connected to how we are doing in a Yoga practice that focuses on awareness even as it challenges us physically and in other ways can be our go to support to continue to move happily and healthily.
Our skillful Yoga practice can be a fundamental part of how we can understand and respond to how increasing demand on our bodies can flush out the vulnerable, more dysfunctional aspects of ourselves. In these instances the physical pain or injuries we receive have a lot to tell about the bodies we are bringing to these activities. Rejecting or avoiding the offending activity, elaborate braces or “workarounds” to keep up, or reliance solely on pain killers to manage these issues can sometimes deal with the symptom but do nothing to resolve the cause. Pain is a message that something is wrong and should be heeded rather than ignored or masked. Moreover, quite often the site of pain or stress is not the sole area that needs to be addressed to truly eliminate the pain or afford healing of an injury. In issues involving the musculoskeletal system of the body, the message of our symptoms is usually that something isn’t working the way it should.
Often the area of the symptom has broken down from long compensating for a core dysfunction located in a remote part of the body. A common example is the incidence of low back pain that results from the low back supporting a head and shoulder that have positioned themselves forward of where they should be. The back muscles are not designed to bear the weight of the forward upper body and over time pain and breakdown of the low and mid back result.
In our Yoga practice the poses themselves can give us a window into how our body is working. The invitation Yoga gives us to consciously attend to proper form in movement and posture turns up the feedback of inner experience and reconnects us to our present kinesthetic sense. When we release struggle, force and self-rejection we can hear this message even more clearly before dire consequences are brought to bear.
We enter the intended pose and honor the “edge” of our poses in which we encounter our limits of movement and strength with compassion. Here we can come to learn the discrepancy between our individual and design body sense; more and more we come to know in each moment how what we feel is in our bodies does or doesn’t correspond to what is supposed to be happening. If we can avoid an overt or unconscious athletic approach to practice and override the pitfalls of fear, pride or attempting to conform to a self-generated image of what should be happening, our adjustments in our poses become more subtle, accurate, and intuitive. Our physical practice aligns itself with the higher Yogic aim of restoring ourselves to full function and well-being in body mind and spirit. From this deepening faculty all the other endeavors of life can be transformed into an extension of the idea of all of life as meditative (aware) process.