Two of the best things to ensure your safety during yoga are also two of the best benefits of regular yoga practice: Self-awareness and Non-violence.
Loren Fishman is an expert in medical yoga and is affectionately referred to as the “Doctor of Yoga.” Fishman is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, as well as a practicing yogi who studied under B.K.S. Iyengar in Pune, India, and has decades of experiences teaching yoga to other doctors. He now teaches at Columbia University, while also running a thriving private practice in Manhattan.
Dr. Fishman argues that proper alignment in yoga asanas (postures) and adequate instruction (guiding you through each step to ensure proper alignment) are ways to prevent injury while doing yoga. These are some of the many reasons alignment-focused yoga and slower, attentive movements are taught at Alligator Healing Arts (AHA!) Yoga.
Though correct alignment and good instruction are essential, Fishman argues that pushing one’s self too hard is the leading cause of injuries during yoga practice. Hence, the most important element of a safe yoga practice is self-regulation. If you demand inappropriate, excessive things of your body, or focus on what your ego thinks you “should” be doing, or how you “should” look in a yoga pose, you can hurt yourself. Dr. Fishman warns us to be mindful in our yoga practice. Yoga teaches us a different experience and measure of success: “The ways you work in yoga are not the same ways you work towards being valedictorian or making a million dollars.” Instead, be aware of your body and constantly note its various sensations. If something creates pain, don’t do it.
This is one of the reasons why “ahimsa,” or non-violence, must be central to your yoga practice. We usually think of non-violence as kindness towards others. Practicing yoga reminds us that it is important to treat ourselves with care and concern; it is only from this place that we can extend such habits of non-violence to others. One of the major benefits of yoga is better bodily self-awareness. When it comes to the physical part of doing yoga, focus on exploration, improvement, and well-being, rather than the achievement of some ideal, impressive pose. Use yoga props and modifications to help you follow proper alignment, and honor where your body is at today. What your body can do with steadiness and comfort can and will vary from day-to-day. Follow this bodily wisdom by choosing with awareness what yoga poses you do, what movements you make, the speed of your transitions, or how you modify a pose. (If you do not know modifications, ask your instructor.) These types of new habits require attentive awareness. Cultivating these attitudes and behaviors of non-violence to our own bodies, over time, fosters more mindfulness and non-violence in other aspects of our lives.
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