A modern day saying, it is often heard in a fitness programs. Either this injunction comes from the instructor or is played in the practitioner’s mind when he or she is trying to go further into a posture. It is to be remembered that our body is extremely complex machinery. Muscles, neurons and bones like to adjust the body in the most comfortable position possible. This gives rise to a distorted posture, leading to pain and discomfort. But what must we do to endure this pain? Is correcting our posture the answer? The general saying “no pain, no gain!” makes us believe that correcting our posture is not the answer. But this notion is not accepted in yoga philosophy. As yoga is:
This means that one must be steady & comfortable in an asana (yoga posture). Always honor the body and its suggestions to you. A refined yogi is one who comprehends the language of the body & follows its signals.
Ego or Acceptance?
Modern philosophy & scenario demands a strong determination, cut-throat spirit and a horse that finishes the race even in an ‘injured’ state. Yoga, on the other hand is about acceptance. When you accept yourself and respect the body, a deeper connection starts to harbour between one’s mind, body and soul. Stopping and relaxing in a yoga class is not about shame, as yoga is not about a challenge that needs to be fulfilled at any cost but rather about overriding one’s ego. Ego is the biggest obstacle in development and an enemy of success. If one does not listen to the language of their body, they are befriending muscle injury, joint aches, numbness, pinched nerves, distorted posture and much more.
To avoid such damages and reach your goals, you have to develop the skill of self-honouring awareness (what does this mean? It sounds weird. Is it’s a yoga term you can let it be, just put in double quotes) in your body.
Bond between pain and nervous system
Pain-nervous system or emotions-mind, (this again sounds weird. Try and rephrase it if you can) have a brotherly relationship. They foster each other and survive on the instincts of the other. When pain is overlooked in a posture, the nervous system instantly registers that experience as hurt, threat and discomfort. Furthermore, the subconscious mind registers it as a bad experience. Next time when one tries to practice that particular posture, there are very bright chances that the mind will send signals of threat to the body. These signals of threat & pain that are issued by the mind can increase the feeling of fear & contempt. One might not perform that posture at all or in some extreme cases skip the practice completely.
The possibility of not being aware of this fear, of repressing it, exists to a large extent, which would gradually lead to missing out on classes. The reasons could be as unjustifiable as headache, lethargy or giving priority to some other work at the moment.
Understand the language of nerves
While sensitive to stretches, nerves are not robust enough to restrain the stretch developed in an asana. They depend upon the tissues and muscles for this purpose. A 10% to 15% stretch caused in a yoga posture is accommodated by tissues and a further 10% to 15% stretch is accommodated by the nerve fibers. After reaching maximum stretch, the nerves start to signal the body to hold or come out of the posture. When we overlook these signals, numbness, sensitivity and tingling sensation occur in the body, which can further lead to motor neuron deficits in the future.
Mindful awareness of the sensations and signals must be ensured if one is seeking a safe and more productive approach in yoga.
Cultivation of patience, regularity and caution are some of the many important traits required in the practice of yoga. While an experienced yoga instructor is a catalyst in a practitioner’s growth, personal responsibility is a must. Never forget that you are the final arbiter of a posture being performed and it is your decision whether to carry further or relax and rest. One yardstick to measure the approach could be to check if one feels fine not only after the yoga session, but even after 24 hours of practice.
Last but not the least; never forget to keep into account the contra-indications of every posture, after all they are mentioned for a reason.