This summer, I had some MRI testing done for an issue related to tremors. It was a little scary at the time, but the final diagnosis wasn’t too traumatic. However, the tests did reveal a hemangioma and 3 disc bulges (one neck and two lower back) on the spine. Being a well-behaved yoga student, I discussed the results with my primary instructor, Beth, and she made some recommendations for my practice. First, she suggested that I hold off on headstand for a while, and limit shoulder stand (using blankets and staying up for shorter times). Second, she asked me to try to avoid a lot of stressing of the lower back by rounding, instead working on greater length in that area. She made specific suggestions for that including bending knees more in forward folds, really working on the belly to spine during asana, and (the most DAH DAH DUUUUUUUM! for me) using plank pose instead of caturanga during vinyasa.
My first reaction was something like “Ok, bend knees, got it. No catur – WHAT?” For me, caturanga is one of those poses that I do and feel like I am super strong. The idea of not doing it at all during a practice was not happy-making. But, I really respect and trust this teacher, and her reasoning made absolute sense, so I thought I should try it. The first class, it was hard to remember, and I felt conspicuous and a little aggravated. But, my back did feel somewhat better afterward, and my belly felt more engaged.
The next week, my chiropractor also suggested maybe no plow, careful with any shoulderstand, and care with deep side twists (particularly where legs are uneven) watching for any pain and stopping if so. So, I had another list of things to consider.
Since then, I’ve been bending knees for every fold, planking every caturanga, and limiting inversions to pinca myurasana, handstand, and legs up the wall. And, over the course of a few classes, I’ve gotten much more ok with it. Yes, I know that I could push and go into those folds without bending. I know I could barrel through a bunch of caturangas. I know that I could do headstand for a few minutes, even if it wasn’t so comfortable. But, I’m not. And that’s ok. I certainly would never want my students to hurt themselves for the sake of a pose, so I need to be able to get my ego out of my way for my own well-being.
Caturanga will be there when and if it is appropriate to get back to it. Where do you hold back in your asana practice for the good of your physical body?