Yoga is a multi-dimensional practice and one of the dimensions we’re working with is listening and feeling, as we witness our inner landscape in relation to what is happening in the periphery.
For me avoiding injuries, or appropriately dealing with them if they arise, is both mental and physical. And if an injury does arise, don’t ignore it or avoid dealing with it. Go into this space of your body, feel and breathe into what is there, and ask for help when you need it.
On a more mental level, slowing down and paying attention helps me to avoid injury. As simple as that sounds, it takes discipline to know when to edge deeper into a shape versus when to step back. When we slow down we breathe and feel more. Our mental state softens and we can concentrate.
If we breathe and feel while paying attention to how we transition from one posture to the next, we will appropriately use our strength and flexibility coupled with healthy boundaries.
On a more physical level, my teacher Nikki Costello has been instrumental in helping me to heal an old injury. With her guidance, I’ve been using the support of my feet and legs with more vigor and clarity – by grounding my heels firmly and evenly, firming my leg muscles more clearly into the bone, and rooting my thighs back as I rise upward through each armpit point. Bringing this awareness has fired up so much new strength and stability in my body and has almost completely alleviated my old hip and low back pain as a result.
It’s hard to translate this on paper, but if I were to simplify these actions that have helped my asana practice after previously losing strength from my old injury, it would be – root down through (or out of depending on the pose) each heel firmly and evenly as you rise upward. Press down strong ‘here’ to open up ‘there’. Or, keep this area ‘fixed’ like the earth as another area ‘flows up and out’ like a river.