Yoga Heals — Most of the Time
A yoga teaching colleague recently related a story about a student at her studio who suffers from a rare neurological condition that causes tremors. Yoga, with its ability to smooth out your nervous system ought to be the perfect solution, right?
In this case, not so much. The student’s condition had actually been worsening, causing suffering for herself, and distracting her fellow students. The fact that she is exploring yoga as a possible way to alleviate her symptoms is certainly positive. But when my friend told me that the symptoms are actually worsening, my first thought was that maybe yoga wasn’t the answer. Or maybe a different kind of yoga practice was in order.
It Ain’t One-Size-Fits-All
As teachers and practitioners, we can too easily get attached to the idea that yoga is a cure-all for whatever ails you. Yoga certainly has the potential to be a powerful healing force for a vast array of imbalances that we all experience from time to time, but it is not a panacea for every person in every situation. And not every type of yoga is going to work for everyone at every stage in his/her life.
For example, a fast-paced, sweaty vinyasa is probably not a good choice for a person with a nervous condition. That type of class is far more likely to aggravate a nervous condition than, say, a Restorative class. Likewise, a regimented, alignment-based practice might not be appropriate for someone who spends her days in living in her head. On the other hand, a person with a hypermobile body structure could learn a lot about keeping her joints healthy in such a class.
The bottom line is to be aware and sensitive enough to know when a practice is not working for you. A practice that was powerful and transformational a year ago might be injurious or imbalancing for you in this moment. No matter how much you love your teacher or the yoga community that surrounds her, it may be that the yoga she’s offering is not the best for you at this time. If she’s a mature, experienced teacher, she will understand this too and have your best interests at heart. But do let her know if you decide to seek another type of class. A knowledgeable teacher will likely know what other options might be helpful.
So if your yoga isn’t working, what do you do? Try something different, of course. For my friend’s student with a nervous condition, practicing Restorative yoga exclusively for a few months is a good start. If that doesn’t help, maybe exploring some other type of body work is in order.
The continuously changing nature of our bodies and minds in relation to our practice provides a great opportunity to practice the second yama, satya (truthfulness). As practitioners, we can practice satya by being honest with ourselves about how our yoga is affecting our physical, mental and emotional well being. As teachers, we practice satya by recognizing when what we’re teaching is not contributing to a particular student’s well being. The day-to-day journey is what it’s all about.