Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Ignore the cavity and it will go away

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I was talking with a student after class the other day about her suspicions that particular aspects of her practice were actually doing her more harm than good. The NYT article had recently come out causing yoga practitioners everywhere to buzz with concerns about injuries and overdoing it on the mat. The student described specific aches, pains, and sensations that were consistently produced when she practiced too frequently and too vigorously. But in the same breath she emphasized her love of the practice and her uncertainty (hope) that these strong sensations might actually be something other than harmful. As she talked I felt the familiar knot developing in my stomach, the sick feeling I get when I know something that I don’t really want to know.

I like to think of it as the “I know I have a cavity” feeling. It’s that same uneasiness I get when I have a not yet been to the dentist, choosing instead to pretend I don’t feel the nerve sensitivity with each bite, each sip of a cold beverage, when I hope that just ignoring it will make it go away. I brush and floss religiously, I tell myself. This must be something else. But waiting changes nothing about the problem, and often only serves to makes the symptoms worse and more abruptly urgent.

Who among us hasn’t been in this situation? Whether trying to defend something you care deeply about like yoga practice or a relationship, or attempting to skirt something unpleasant like a cavity, it can be tempting to ignore what you wish you didn't you know. At first it’s just a hint, a whisper, but as time passes it gets louder and stronger and more obvious, and yet still you resist, worried. The worry stems not from the knowledge, but from having to do something with it. It’s scary to think about having to change your behavior, having to take a different approach when you were oh so comfy just as you were.

Just as ignoring the cavity doesn’t make it go away, when you keep practicing yoga in a way that causes you to question whether you are doing yourself harm, you likely are. After listening to the student I suggested that she already knows the answer to her own question, and typically that’s how it goes. When you wonder if you are overdoing it, you likely are. If you think you have a cavity, you probably do. That quiet nagging, that quiet knowing is your intuition. The decision to listen to it or not is all you.

Tagged in: injuries intuition

Kerry is the Founder & Director of Bloom Yoga Studio, voted Best Yoga Studio in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and Citysearch. As a practicing yogi, writer, and mother of three, Kerry is all about making the principles and philosophies of yoga real and accessible for day-to-day living. You can find Kerry on Google+.