“Life is nice, but it lacks form. It’s the aim of art to give it some.”
There has never been a manual to become a successful, prosperous, and happy person from scratch. We must go through the hills and valleys, highs and lows, breakdowns and breakthroughs of life experience. Sprinkled in with our personal experience is the insight of the wise we come across, and yet, the successful tips from others don’t always translate the same within our own lives. This unpredictability is what makes life such a beautiful thing. Things that are more tangible like material items, our bodies, and even me writing this blog, requires some sort of form. If the machines or people who manufactured my car ‘did what felt good to them’ while they were putting it together, I could have an artistic looking car, but it could be a dangerous thing to drive.
Disorganization, disorder, and disarrangement does not allow quality. Think about it. People have been exercising for a long time, and in all types of physical exercise form is key to prevent injury. In fact, there is “proper” form in lifting boxes.
It is common in the yoga community to hear about injuries due to improper form. Of course, blame can go in any direction. Overzealous students can sometimes bring it on themselves by pushing past their capacity of strength and/or flexibility. A room full of 20-50 students with varying levels can also make it extremely hard for a SINGLE teacher to keep an eye on everybody to make sure all are safe. There is no required anatomical testout for teachers in training. Some schools of training teach their prospective teachers to give strong physical adjustments, to try to change or manipulate a person's bodily structure, regardless of the level of education in anatomy. Even more so, they are encouraged to give those adjustments to as many students they can throughout the classes they teach. As a studio owner, I notice a lot of people come into my studio who were encouraged by their doctor to try yoga. When asked, I recommend private lessons, Yoga 101, or Level 1 classes - and they often opt out of all that to go to a level 2 or 3 class that is “convenient” for their schedule. These are just some of the factors that may be the cause of injuries.
I taught yoga for three years without knowing anything about proper form. My asana practice lacked form, and not only that, but stability, direction, focus, strength, and even flexibility, due to that lack of form. My teaching, the same. Thank Hanuman nobody was injured in any of my classes. One thing that I couldn’t control were the habits my students of that era of my teaching may have created, because I was never taught correct form or much about the anatomy of the body. All I had were few modifications which give too few options, if not this then that, if not that than this and once again, I wasn’t really taught why. Bodies are just too complex for that. If we are constantly giving modifications that can injurious the inevitable will happen through repetitive motions.
Thanks to my teacher Noah Mazé, I was fortunate enough to become educated on proper form. He showed me the importance of form. That importance brought focus, which led to strength, and then stability, which gave me the opportunity to get deeper and more flexible, and gave rise to a direction. He never forced anything on his students, it was all through invitation. Invitation to understanding more about myself. Not my brain really, but my body. By being more aware of my movements, my posture, my breath, and of course, my form. Empowering me with the awareness of myself gave me the ability to help others in their practices; to bring the awareness to help others be in their bodies more and their minds less, and to create healthy habits during asana practice. That is when yoga becomes a moving meditation. With the consistency of practice, you learn not only form, but you create healthy habits that leads to instinct. There is no time for loose ‘do what feels good for your body’ or ‘close your eyes and move from a place of love’. If it was up to me and what feels good, I would choose to sit on the couch and catch the new episode of Viceland’s “Bong Appetit”. I mean, really, do what feels good. That is why I started going to yoga in the beginning, I didn’t know how to do any poses and I didn’t want to be lazy. The simple fact of going to yoga class, ‘I am paying you to tell me what to do for an hour or longer so I don't have to think about it.’ Having the option to just check out allows me to be lazy.
All styles of modern postural yoga can pose a threat to injury - but so does walking while on your phone, driving your car, or reaching for a kitchen appliance that is in the highest cabinet. There is one particular style which has a lot of repetitive movements, and if done poorly, can cause injury overtime. “Overtime” being a keyword here; what might seem okay now might not feel the same in the long haul. Vinyasa is in its infant years compared to excercise work like weight lifting. How many people who have been lifting for years have major surgeries due to improper form? The studies and verdict are still not out on this type of physical activity, and although you aren’t dealing with heavy weights, you are still bearing weight and resistance on your joints in yoga. The National Federation of Professional Training posted this article on the Importance of Proper Form their website. What makes yoga any different; peace, love, intention and gratitude? That for sure isn’t going to prevent me from injury. Do not get me wrong, I believe all types of yoga can be remedial when done correctly. Vinyasa yoga really helps me connect body and breath. I feel my cardio vascular system elevated to levels I cannot achieve in other styles. Hatha and Iyengar give me the opportunity to slow down and really pay attention to detail, depth, and form.
I invite you to ask questions in class. To truly learn yoga, and to be yoga. Immerse yourself in this exploration of self. As a teacher, I am here for you. I don’t know everything about yoga, as I am still in the process of learning myself and hope to always be that kind of student, but I will do my best to answer your questions. If you would like to get a deeper understanding of the body and your practice, join me for our next teacher training that starts June 2017! 200 hours only scratches the surface of the ocean of yogic knowledge, nonetheless we dive deep into anatomy, alignment, philosophy, and self-awareness. In our trainings we explore form, foundation, anatomy, mindful vinyasa, some restorative, and even prenatal yoga. Our philosophy is if you can understand classical form and anatomy you will better be of service to your students in knowing why you modify for specific ailments, injuries, or conditions. If you are not ready for a complete 200-hour teacher training, we offer Pose Clinic Workshops, where we dedicate and dissect poses and their form in detail. Standing poses, backbends, twists, forward folds, etc. These are ideal for beginning students as well as well-seasoned practitioners and teachers looking to expand their practice.