(or What to Do When Your Body Doesn’t Do What You Expect It To)
Some days, it seems like everything goes right. We can hydrate appropriately throughout the day, eat nutritious meals that allow us to feel strong and energized, and balance our personal and work responsibilities just right to buy the time required to make it to yoga class. Ideally, this groove would last all the way through class, keeping us mindful and present through each posture, maybe even managing to keep our faces smiling and happy as we stretch and pull to our best ability. Maybe the poses don’t cause us any discomfort and we’re getting green lights from our bodies all the way throughout.
Other days, despite our best efforts and the good vibes we may seem to have in our lives, our bodies may not be on the same page. One day you may find that the poses you’ve been doing comfortably for weeks or years are suddenly not accessible to you anymore. And believe it or not, this can be a good thing.
Bikram tends to attract perfectionists (including myself) to the practice. Unfortunately, this means that some of us expect a certain depth and look to our postures that is not always possible. Our bodies are ever changing, growing, adapting to the situations we put them in, and this yoga helps teach us a very important strategy to guide us through our challenges: stop and listen.
Stop the stream of thoughts that tells you it’s too hard, it should be easier, it should look different, and other discouraging messages. Those ideas do you no good. Instead, use the struggle as an opportunity to tune into more important messages. Listen to the teacher, and—the greater, more vital lesson—listen to your body. Every day, in class and out of it, our bodies are trying to tell us what we need. But in the crucible of the Bikram room, we have few options but to listen. Instead of pushing as hard as you can go, allow yourself to hear what is happening in and around you.
When you find yourself in a pose that you just can’t seem to complete, it is a great chance to go back to the beginning and build your foundation. Let go of how far you have gone before into a pose, and put your energy into setting up the posture to the teacher’s instructions. You may find that you’ve developed some funky habits over time, or that you skipped over some key element that got you off balance. Focusing on the beginning can help.
Once you’ve got the setup, move one step at a time until it falls apart, then go no further. Back it up and do it 100% right, no exceptions, no pushing past it. Without doing the poses the right way, you are putting yourself at risk of other kinds of strain or injury as your body compensates for the parts that aren’t working appropriately. Remember that visible depth is not nearly as important as correct alignment.
We all struggle in class at some point or another, and the teachers in this studio have a wide range of histories and many years of experience. They are here to help you find your best practice, to guide you in creating the kind of body that will allow you to live a happy and healthy life. Don’t be afraid to ask around for advice on how to deal with what challenges you—chances are one of the teachers has dealt with it before.
Most importantly, keep coming back to learn how to listen and how to give your body what it needs.