5 common yoga mistakes that can keep you from loving your yoga practice
It’s an interesting thing to think about Yoga mistakes. I’ve seen some people who have a very dedicated yoga practice, but I can see they don't LOVE it, and when I start taking them through the Kaiut Yoga sequences that I teach I can see very quickly where some mistakes have been made.
The first thing to say about making mistakes in yoga is that actually you can't make mistakes. You can injure yourself – and learn from that injury. You can get into habits – and find a good teacher who will help you break them. You can push yourself – and realise how much benefit comes from relaxing. You can always learn from the creative experiment. Sometimes in yoga you get it “wrong”, but because you made that mistake, you now understand things deeper. You make a "mistake" and then you see much more clearly why that route may not suit you. After making mistakes you will be left with more ability and more awareness of how your body and mind are working, growing and changing.
And that said, here are 5 common yoga mistakes that can keep you from loving your yoga practice.
1. Pushing yourself. Don’t make the mistake in yoga of pushing, stretching, or forcing. In Kaiut yoga the emphasis is on relaxing and breathing into the posture. Yet it differs from a Yin practice in that a) Kaiut has quite fine precision in the postures and b) at times the instruction will be to maintain, to reach or to lean into some posture or other. So, yes there are times when holding your leg in the air will feel like it’s hard. But if you are precise, and you create a sense of relaxation about your whole practice then you naturally won’t go at it too hard. If you have the attitude that you have to push yourself to get into shape, you will force things that would be better off with more time relaxing to rebalance correctly. Forcing things is the way you can do damage. If you are making the mistake of pushing too hard, you will push and release and push and release, like bending a piece of wire into shape. And what happens when you bend and release wire many times? It snaps. So don't make the mistake of pushing yourself too hard. Remember less is more. Relax.
2. Trying to achieve a shape. Don't make the classic yoga mistake and look for the shape. Look inside for how it feels. And look for the precision. Surrounded as we are by the internet, media, you tube videos, magazines and images everywhere we can’t help but be influenced by those images of yoga shapes. Those “perfect” yogi’s in an incredible posture. Looking like a pretzel. But those images mess with your mind. You need to have your own internal images, feelings and sensations mapped in your mind of how your body works. Many people who come to my Kaiut Yoga classes will need realignment in their feet in certain poses. If I ask them to adjust and then tell them – now that looks straight, they will say “but it feels awkward”. Yes, it feels off, because the body map in the brain has been programmed to that permanent mal-adjustment or shape. It probably started to compensate for an injury or restriction elsewhere in the body. It’s a cumulative mistake. When it is corrected first it feels “off” but gradually, over time the shape corrects itself. So in Kaiut yoga you are not trying to achieve a shape, you just take the precision of the posture and let the shape find itself.
3. Seeing yoga as fitness. A big mistake that is being made out there in the world is that yoga is being mistaken for a fitness exercise. Yoga has far more to do with meditation than fitness. Yes of course, fitness results in a regular practice. But fitness on all levels. You will gain physically, but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When the western mind first saw those yogis doing asanas with their bodies, they just decided that they would copy the movement or shape. What many people forget to do is to ask the person in the asana. What does that feel like? How does it feel? You mustn’t care about how far you go, what shape you take or if you can do a pose or not. That’s a big mistake, trying to fit your body into a regime. What you can care about it how does it feel. How present are you as you practice and how does your yoga practice inform the rest of your life. If you practice yoga then go home and kick the dog, shout at the kids and have a big argument with your spouse, your practice has done nothing to create more presence, more emotional coherence in your life. Physical well being is the gateway into a whole field of mindfulness in yoga which is the heart of the practice.
4. Creating variety. Don’t make the mistake in yoga of doing the same thing every time you go to it. Allow your practice to be the place where you are acutely aware of each and every movement in the body and in the breath. Be fully present. Present to yourself, to your practice, to consciousness and the ground of all being. If you do the same thing every time you go into a pose you will fall into a habit. And if you are in a habit, your body will fall asleep. Your body and that part of your mind will go into autopilot. The fact the human body can do this can be incredibly useful. The fact we can drive a car and have a conversation with a friend at the same time helps long journeys be enjoyable. Our bodies know where and how to drive. However, this can also be numbing. Where are your hips when you cross your legs? Where are your hips when you sit at the computer? Where are your hips when you walk? When you bend down to pick something up? And then suddenly we find ourselves at a certain age needing hip surgery because we haven’t ever been aware in our hips. Making small adjustments to make sure you can feel your hips keeps them alive. In yoga if you have a practice that does not challenge your habits, if you don’t create variety, you will not get the benefits of being fully present to your body and your life. Live in continual discovery.
5. Doing it by yourself. Why is doing your practice by yourself a mistake? Because you have to practice with three friends. What friends are those?
Gravity, Time and Presence.If you do your practice without your friend of gravity you will probably be forcing things, and you are more likely to injure yourself. If you do your practice without your friend time you will probably rush things and you are more likely to make the mistakes of missing the precision in the posture. And if you do your practice without your friend Presence, you will not stay aware and awake to the magnificence of your body, the miracles that are occurring in the very moment you awaken to them.
Not making mistakes in Yoga is easy if you have a good teacher, a good regular practice and you keep your attention on what is important. Then you have the right ingredients to really LOVE your practice.
I’m happy to offer my classes in person in my studio in Crofton B.C and online through membership to Kathy White Yoga Sign up here for Three Free Kaiut Yoga video classes