BY: TRISHA CURLING
Where does our yoga practice really start? Is it finding the right teacher? style? studio? There are arguably many aspects we can choose from to discuss where and/or how our yoga practice truly starts. I think that the first place to look at is truly inside of our heads. The decision starts here and it’s not always an easy one. We might be afraid to start because we simply don’t know enough and are potentially telling ourselves that we can’t do it or, we may have a desire to start, but our past/current injuries and pain are holding us back. Let’s look at some ways we might be able to overcome these potential obstacles.
There is so much power in visualization and the way we speak to ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when it comes to talking ourselves out of things. Starting our own yoga practice can be as simple as just making the decision to experiment with a few different classes and/or styles of yoga to see what resonates with us. Taking a friend along is also helpful. Even if we make the decision to go alone, we might surprise ourselves with the new friendships that can develop. Sometimes building a friendship when we are starting from a common place that is new, is exciting in itself. I am fortunate to have a wonderful “yogini friendship” that developed when I started my practice. This is the beauty of a class environment in yoga.
One of the strongest issues that may prevent us from starting our yoga journey and receiving its’ benefits, may not even be that we don’t know where to go or who to start with as a teacher. Past and/or current experience with injury or pain might be stopping us. We may think that we are no longer capable because of what we are experiencing physically. The truth is, once we find a safe place to practice with a qualified teacher, we can actually learn how to rewire our brains to send signals to the appropriate parts of the body to work more efficiently in order to help us to reduce our pain patterns and actually learn how to create better body awareness and self-study. In yoga, we are really working through the process of connecting or reconnecting with ourselves in a meaningful way, both physically and mentally. Finding a knowledgeable yoga teacher that can help us with slowing down in order to reconnect with parts of the body that may have “turned off” for example, as a result of under use, poor movement patterns, or even due to a severe degree of tightness may actually help us to reduce or even remove pain altogether.
The source of our knee pain, for example, is most likely an issue that stems from another part of the body altogether. For example, having weak hip muscles that are responsible for external rotation (gluteus maximus, piriformis, quadratus femoris, to name a few) can cause alignment issues in the patella (knee cap) with the femur (upper thigh bone). This may lead to increased degeneration of the cartilage in this area, therefore causing knee pain. In our yoga practice, when we slow down and begin to make the connection in our “heads” or better yet make better brain connections to these areas, we can teach our bodies to begin to strengthen and/or fire these areas again, so that we are not putting stress in the wrong areas of the body. Instead of “getting out of our heads” let’s get in them in order to help us move with more ease and purpose.