If you were allergic to peanuts, would you order the Pad Thai? No, it’s just not worth it. You’d find something else on the menu that wasn’t going to harm you.
To keep your body safe and satisfied as you practice yoga, it can be helpful to think of yoga poses in terms of allergies. When it comes to poses that are challenging to us physically, some things we are allergic to, others we have an intolerance, and sometimes we just need to give them a try.
Often practitioners are lured too far into a pose or to do a pose they shouldn’t. There are a myriad of reasons including a student’s competitive nature, lack of restraint, poor cueing, limited options from the teacher, and misunderstanding the ability of the body. It can be easy to “consume” poses that we shouldn’t. But, framing them as we would food allergies might help create a healthy perspective for our practice of asana.
There are some poses that each of us shouldn’t do. It might be because of injury, our unique construction, or some other factor. For example, someone with a neck injury has no business coming into halasana or plough pose. It doesn’t matter if the yogi next to them is doing the pose, the pose is not a viable option for them. This has nothing to do with how “good” or “advanced” their practice is or whether or not they are a quality human being. They are just shouldn’t do the pose. Where we have pose allergies, alternative postures are a must.
Sometimes allergies aren’t full blown. They are just intolerances. You may be sensitive to dog dander, but not completely harmed by it. So instead of any dog, you get a hairless one, one with minimal dander exposure, or you take an allergy medication. The same goes for yoga poses. Maybe you don’t have optimal range of motion in your knees, but you can still safely do virasana or hero’s pose with the support of a block or blanket. Where we have pose intolerances, props and modifications can help the poses be tolerable and safer for our bodies.
Give it a Try
When my kids were little I used to tell them, “you have to try something 27 times before you know you like or not”. There’s nothing scientific to this number. They were little, and it was hard for them to remember how many times they tried something. Some yoga poses fall into this category. There are situations where there are no allergies or intolerances, but we may not think we like them. Like a lima bean or another vegetable you may not like. That may be the case, but maybe we should give them a try. For me it’s a pose like mandukasana or frog posture. This intense groin and inner hip opener is challenging for me. Even though it might not be my favorite it can be good for me. Props and modifications may still be warranted here to make the poses more palatable.
Hopefully this change of perspective will help cultivate an approach to poses that encourages you to do what is right just for you. Replacing judgement with objectivity for challenging postures can encourage us to develop a practice that best fits the needs of our own bodies. Enjoy the practice even more when you order the best things from the menu just for you!