Why is it so difficult for me to find ease in my yoga practice, by either modifying or taking child’s pose whenever I need to, when I know it’s right there for me? I know that I can modify, adjust or rest at any point, yet oftentimes I will still resist the urge to do so, even when my body is sending a clear signal that I should. When I get a little winded during the Sun Salutation flow or the Back-bending Series, I know (and I encourage my students all the time) that I can find ease at any time if and when necessary! And yet, I would rather exhaust myself (“Push yourself! Fight through it!” a little voice in my head will scream) or worse, risk injury before doing “wimping out.” Why do I do this? It’s just yoga.
Maybe it’s the former gym rat in me, who grew up on bodybuilding and fitness magazines where I learned to “push through the pain” when cranking out those last, excruciating reps on the squat rack with upwards of 300 lbs on the bar (Leg day was my favorite workout day, by the way). Maybe it’s a flashback to training in Krav Maga and mixed martial arts several years ago. In weight training and martial arts, you are taught to not only fight through discomfort of any kind, but to embrace it. A little voice is born in your mind that whispers ever so loudly to “push through the pain.” That same little voice pops into my head from time to time while I’m on my yoga mat, as it did yesterday afternoon during practice, and forces me to push through the pain and suffering, when yoga is the exact opposite of pain and suffering.
Over the past week I have achieved the ability to transition from flip dog to an early wheel. (Check out my YouTube video here.) As happy and grateful as I am with this breakthrough in my practice, it has resulted in some slight soreness on the right side of my lower back. Normally, I would take it easy for a few days or so until my back felt better before trying flip-dog-to-early-wheel again. However, during practice yesterday that little voice from my gym rat/martial arts days crept back into my head, filling me with confidence from having achieved it before, and pushing me to do it again, even though I was clearly in pain. “C’mon, Dutch! You did it before, you can do it again! Keep going! Push through the pain! Fight through it! You’ve got this!” Fortunately, once I reached my edge (i.e. when the pain was too much to ignore), the rational voice took over and I backed out of the pose, and modified the rest of my practice accordingly, and probably avoiding further injury.
Moral of the story: No matter what your level is, or how long you’ve been doing yoga, there are times when finding ease is not only a good idea, but it absolutely necessary. Taking a modification or lowering into child’s pose simply means that you are listening to your body and taking extra care of it at those moments during your yoga practice when the body and breath simply need a moment to reset. It doesn’t mean you’re “wimping out.” Quite the opposite: It means you’re “wising up.”