When and when not to push yourself

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When and when not to push yourself

Postby KaliBaby » Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:19 pm

On Tuesday, I found myself situated behind a woman who was clearly more advanced than me. I tried to mimick some of the positions she was doing and was actually able to do them even though I'm a beginner. Now, two days later, my lower back is absolutely killing me. I think this position may be the culprit:


How do you know when you should stick to basic positions and when you should push yourself? I'm trying to gain flexibility but now that my back hurts a lot I'm afraid to attempt certain poses again :(
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Postby Arbela » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:04 pm

That's funky. I was just wearing those pants yesterday.

Knowing when to back off is tricky for everyone, even the most advanced yogi. :) I've experienced what I like to affectionately call "enthusiasm-induced" injuries ~ I see someone in a pose and think, "Yay, I'm gonna try that!" Soon after, I'm digging my ice pack out of the freezer.

What I try to do (and I'm far from perfect at it) is find the spot in the pose where it's a challenge but I can still breathe freely, in for 4 slow counts or so, out for 4 counts. The minute my breath becomes short and choppy, I'm straining to some degree, and that's the danger zone.

The pose you've highlighted is an interesting one in regards to this, as it's pretty challenging to breathe in no matter how flexible you are.
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Postby BenH » Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:49 am

That's the bow, no? Arbela's definitely right about the breathing, I can never hold that position without taking shorter, quicker breaths, but I've never experienced any pain/injury as a result of doing it.

My personal rule for stretching is to hold a position for longer, rather than to stretch further, until it becomes comfortable. If something causes pain or discomfort, pull back from it a bit and hold the easier position for longer. I'm far from an expert on this so don't take my advice as anything "official," but I've had some success this way (eg, I worked very gradually into the plough and now I can hold the position easily [and quite far] without any pain/injury) so it might be worth considering.

You could also work up to more difficult positions using similar, easier ones, like the cobra (I think that's the one) instead of the bow.
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Postby emm7 » Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:53 pm

The bow is quite advanced and also a very deep backbend so take it gently! You don't have to come very far up into the bow.
Alternatives to the bow are the Cobra or the Sphinx pose.

When I studied Viniyoga my teacher always gave at least three alternatives for each pose, she gave us a choice. So for a backbend she would give us a choice of eg. Sphinx, Cobra, or Bow depending on our flexibility and how our bodies were feeling on the day. Some weeks I would have a go at the Bow pose but if I was feeling tired or in any other way not up to it, I would do one of the others. This is one of the things I love about Viniyoga, it is all about each individual person tailoring the yoga session to their own needs and there is a very nurturing and non-competitive atmosphere in the class. There were a lot of over 60s age group in my class and it was great to have a good mix of the generations in one class. I think that the big age range helped to keep the class non-competitive.
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Postby Enhydra Lutris » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:06 pm

I haven't done much yoga, but I do pilates, and what I've found is that the how your body is feeling that day has a lot to do with it. I do push myself, but I never do anything that is painful ("bad pain") and if it starts hurting, I ease off and do less that day. If something turns out to hurt (again "bad pain") the next few days, I remember that for the next time we do it and I take extra care to build up to it, rather than go full out. Slowly building up to doing the more advanced stuff. There are a few moves which I can't take to their fullest extension as they hurt my back, but mostly I just need to build more strength and/or flexibility.

Having said that, sometimes you just seem to be able to do the pose or exercise one day. Just like that. :)
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Postby JonQ » Mon Aug 03, 2009 3:31 pm

My take on this is never to push myself. One of the best advice we got in class was to try doing movements using the least effort necessary - like that you find out how much you need for each movement and how much you tend to use, or overuse. It's very common to push to get into some asana instead of just seeing how far the body would go 'naturally'. You don't get into a split in a day 8).

Another of the most important points for me in class was never to compare to others OR to yourself. You need to do what your body can do THAT DAY, not what others do or don't do, or what you did last time. The best way to strengthen your body - in my view - is finding out your limits and gently moving forward. No pushing, ever.

Others may see it differently, of course 8). But I need to be very careful as I have fibromyalgia which is easy enough to provoke, and for me this has worked very well. It's saved me a lot of unnecessary pain. 'Normal' soreness is fine of course, but not inflamed, angry muscles staying painful for more than a week.
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Postby KaliBaby » Tue Aug 04, 2009 2:37 pm

[quote="JonQ"]Another of the most important points for me in class was never to compare to others OR to yourself. You need to do what your body can do THAT DAY, not what others do or don't do, or what you did last time...

there are two instructors I've had so far that make everybody place their mats facing each other. it's kind of hard not to be looking at others across the room and comparing yourself to them.

overall, I've learned to embrace what I can do and slowly ease into positions more deeply that have been giving me trouble. thanks for all of your advice!
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