Flexibility and Yoga, force or not force, that the question! (or how to apply yamas in our practice) by Claudia Gutierrez
Practicing Yoga in this modern world (better say in the human world?) is really challenging.
We are so use to compete, to achieve, to arrive, to win… So, when we decide to take the yoga journey we take it with the same attitude of: bring it on!!
Almost everybody fall in the trap of the outside shape of the yoga poses.
We believe that if we reach the toes or we get that difficult posture we will arrive… (to Samadhi, to peace, to total achievement, to enlightenment, to final destination… )
So, despite all the signs that your body send to you in an attempt to protect itself (and you!!!) we keep going, we keep pushing, forcing, tearing apart our muscles, joints, soul…
Ohhh, believe me! I know it, I was there! (Still am! Some days I can see myself pushing more than I should just to feel more adequate, more in tune with the general idea of what a yoga teacher should look in a pose!).
I was an active gymnast for many years (competitions included) and I worked for many, many years as a fitness instructor (even now) so push myself to the limits was (sometimes still is L) my way of living.
I know what is to have your hands bleeding and still jump to the uneven bars to keep practising, to don’t lose a single moment. Or have your body plenty of bruises and your joints and muscles destroyed and still training hard. Resilience was at the order of the day.
So, after a few years break of doing nothing (when I just arrived to Ireland, 7 years ago; no exercises at all, when I used to do at least 5 classes a day) and, when I decided that I wanted to teach again, I took my yoga practice with the same attitude (I should say that before I decided to teach again, my relationship with yoga was a peaceful and extraordinary one – deserve another blog J ):
Lot of classes a day, shoulder stand to the limit even if my neck was screaming for help, ploughs were practised and I was determined to touch the floor with my toes even if my back wasn’t ready. Seated for hours every day with the sand bag in my knees to open my inner tights, forward and back bends were practised as crazy. Chaduranga and arm balances oh yes! Give me more!! (Gymnasts are afraid of nothing!)
I did it all without paying attention to the signs of my body. I didn’t care about my body, about myself! I only wanted to achieve those beautiful poses that I could do before at ease. No awareness at all, not kindness or caring for myself at all (Awareness? Mind, body and soul connection? What is that?).
As a result, after a year of intense torture what I got, obviously, was a great injury in my elbow (I have an extra bone to probe it!), the muscles of the back of my legs are still recovering for those bad stretchings (I am even more stiff than before I started to practice again!), my back still cannot afford to do a normal shoulder stand without props, ploughs? Not for me right now! and my knees are still in the same place (really close to my ears when I crossed it in a seated position! J
So, slowly I start to realise that pushing hard, to the limits, leaving my body and myself out of the equation wasn’t the way.
It wasn’t all at once, it wasn’t suddenly, but slow and gradually the whole idea of bring awareness to my body as I practice fell in place.
I can proudly say now that the previous reading of Yamas (series of "right living" or ethical rules within Yoga) has a whole different meaning for me than before. I am now a believer!
And I would love to convince you too! These rules are meant to be applied in others and (more important?) in yourself:
- Ahimsa: non-violence
- Satya: benevolent truth, absence of falsehood
- Asteya : non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: spiritual advancement by education and training
- Aparigraha: non-appropriation, absence of avarice
As you read and explore their meaning you can find a reason within yourself of why we need to achieve so badly (envy, pride, vanity, need to show our strenght, our determination?)
Why we cannot feel the beauty of contentment in our present situation, in our body as it is in any given moment?
We have so indelible marked in our mind the belief that contentment is synonymous of average. The word surrender (to the present moment, to the breath, to the higher self) sounds as a defeat instead as a courageous act of living.
So, I invite you to apply it, in your own way, in your practice today.
Use your will power to restrain yourself to force your body to the limits. Allow the contentment, the acceptance of your own body and situation to flow in your consciousness and awareness.
Enjoy the process of self-discovery of your body and soul as you move in the mat without expectations, without pressure, knowing that everything is ok as it is…
You can read more about Yamas and Niyamas here:
Yoga Fitness Blog
I am Claudia Gutierrez, owner of Yoga Fitness, originally from Argentina and proudly Irish Citizen since 2012.