What exactly are these ‘Openings’ in yoga asana?

yoga class at Sultan Palas Dalyan Have you ever been involved in your practice of asana and you’ve felt some release or click happening in your body? Or maybe you’ve heard of someone else expressing these sensations. Well what exactly are they? It’s very normal through our yoga practice that as we begin to release our body through stretching and better ways of achieving a relaxedness in our practice that at times we notice these releases that often feel liberating a if we’ve become free of something that has been weighing us down for some time – had some kind of revelation or insight that gives us another way of seeing ourselves in relation to the great scheme of things – these can be called Openings and are very rewarding, natural and expected.

However there are other kinds of openings that although leave us more knowledgeable, can have a serious debilitating effect on our physical and mental well-being. Ultimately these are not to be sought after and very often stay with us throughout our lives and severely handicap our ability to perform asana in the future. These are usually injuries that occur because of our lack of caution or at the hands of some teachers who take their students beyond their actual capabilities not purposefully, but because of a lack of sensitivity to the students limitations. Openings, or injuries, as I prefer to call them are rife within the world of sport and no exception in the world of yoga as well. In our eagerness to excel and ‘do our best’, we often exceed our safety limits and hurt ourselves.

But how do we go on then in our yoga sadhana and practice within a known parameters of safety. Well quite frankly we cannot do that. I’d like to say otherwise but I cannot. The very nature of practice is that we are moving into unchartered territory, ‘to boldly go where we have never been before’, and so we just don’t really know what the consequences will be or to expect. Particularly when working deeply on postures that take us into specific joint work. I spend quite a bit of my time talking with students who have injuries and recommending modifications to reconstruct their asana practice. And this is one of the reasons I wanted to share this post and to re-evaluate the way we address our sadhana and to bring to mind that yoga is a form of Therapeutic Practice and not for the platform of Circus theatricals.

Let’s keep our intention in mind and let us not be diverted onto the performance roundabout. Let’s face it, if you really want to see extremes of body mobility then just take a look at what contortionists can do. Mind boggling, at least it is for me anyway. Well personally, I have no ambitions to become a contortionist but I do appreciate their gifted abilities. Yoga is not about that. Yoga is about bringing ourselves into harmony, and as Mr. Iyengar himself even remarked in class one day, that the uninitiated ‘would think of him as some kind of a contortionist’, and that is clearly what he is not.

Remember Ahimsa or non-violence towards ourselves and others. If we can use this as our measure, then we can transform our attitude to a safer and more fulfilling way of self awakening. And this attitude of Ahimsa is the true purpose behind a vegetarian approach to eating and lifestyle. To respect all sentient Beings and to remember their right to life just as we expect others to have respect for our right to life.

Happy practice,

Peace and Love x


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