I’ve been a negligent blogger, tis true.  But, I’m hoping to make it up to you by sharing a great experience!  This past weekend, I attended a yoga workshop with Judith Lasater, a wonderful, compassionate, and incredibly knowledgeable woman. Her 40 years of teaching and learning (not to mention all those degrees, including Physical Therapy) made her workshop, The Shoulder Joint: Anatomy, Theraputics and Asana, sponsored by Eyes of the World in Providence, quite a revelatory experience (for me, anyway.)

The incidence of yoga-inspired injuries is on the rise, for many reasons, which you can read more about in the link I’ve provided. I’ve got particular interest in shoulder injuries due to dislocating mine last year.  Now, I didn’t do the injury during asana practice (I did it in my sleep!), but that doesn’t mean my asana practice didn’t contribute to the injury.  I firmly believe several things contributed to my injury — lots of work-related stress (which I hold in my neck and shoulders), repetitive activity (computer work and lots of driving) causing muscle distress, my love of vinyasa combined with a propensity to sometimes push myself — something I NEVER expect or encourage my students to do, but I’m a different story.  (I’d do *much* better if I treated myself more like I treat my students.)

Judith Lasater approaches yoga with a much more natural viewpoint. She really acknowledges that there are certain things our bodies can do well, and certain things they might not — and it often comes down to physiology.  She didn’t say someone can “never” do a pose — even the kick-butt, uber-cool poses, like Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose) that have caused injuries to some practitioners. Instead, she stressed that with proper warm-up and moderation, most poses are fine for most bodies with steady practice.  There are always exceptions, of course, and the individual practitioner must learn to become the “mature practitioner” and acknowledge limitations overall and limitations he/she might meet in any given moment of practice. So, let me say it again because it was a big deal:  with moderation, asana generally causes no harm.  But we’re Americans … When are we ever moderate?

We all do it every single day.  We all say things about ‘having no time’, or ‘feeling stressed and overwhelmed’, or ‘I need another cup of coffee because I’ll never make it through my morning without it”.  Statements like this simply mean we’re doing Way. Too. Much — all the time. In this age of being on the receiving end of a constant barrage of sensation (tv, music, food, phone, iPods, Facebook, Twitter, movies, LinkedIn, text messaging, etc), it seems to be more and more difficult to find the place of moderation, to find the place where things get done AND we manage to take care of ourselves. Instead, we keep taking on more, seeking more, demanding more — of ourselves, our relationships, our bodies, our world.

Many of us take this mindset with us when we step on to our mats.  I’ve done it. I’ve seen my students do it. I’ve seen other practitioners do it when I’m the student.  We’ve all had moments in which we’ve pushed too far in our attempt to expand, to be open, to be the best yogis we can be. And we go to the same powerful classes all the time, and never mix it up. We don’t do a few Chaturanga Dandasana, we do 20. We forget that sometimes practice needs to mean slowing down and allowing our breath to guide us in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold) rather than willing and forcing our nose closer to our shins, or taking Balasana (Child’s Pose) when we’re feeling overwhelmed in practice, or stepping back to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) rather than jumping back, or making sure we have sufficient time in Savasana (Corpse Pose) to allow our bodies, minds and souls to truly relax.

Ms. Lasater repeatedly stated throughout the weekend the great need for stress-reduction, relaxation and moderation in our culture. As a teacher and author, restorative practices is near and dear to how she teaches Yoga.  She mentioned several times that she thought the world would be a much better place if everyone did twenty minutes of Savasana every day … I’m inclined to think she’s right.  The persistent striving for more and better  in our culture has created problems in every level of our existence, from oil spills and mercury-laden fish, to a gluttony of processed food in some parts of the globe and abject starvation in others, to ever-increasing prescription drug use to manage the physical, emotional and mental pain of living our lives. We’ve never had so much … And so many have never felt so empty and sick.

So … What do we do? As teachers, students, humans? Perhaps we take back our lives from the things demanding pieces of us. Put down the remote. Silence the MP3 player. Logout of Facebook. Walk away from the computer. Not permanently, but just long enough to practice.  Long enough to do a twenty-minute Savasana (studies have shown it actually takes at least 15 minutes before the average person can physically start to relax), or a five minute meditation or ten minutes of Asana.  Long enough to figure out what our bodies and minds really need NOW.  If we all set the intention to meet ourselves in the middle of our lives, rather than at the edges, we just might find that breathing space, that time, that lack of need for another cup of coffee that allows us to truly live.  We might even find more compassion for ourselves, which in turn, allows us to access compassion for others.

The workshop was on the shoulder joint, and I learned a whole LOT about the shoulder joint. But Ms. Lasater also reminded me that the shoulder is simply a part of the whole. She encouraged everyone to slow down, breathe deep, to listen to ourselves and others, and helped us experience the beauty of the twenty minute Savasana. She taught Yoga.

Read more about keeping the shoulder safe.

I highly recommend Judith Lasater’s books! Wonderful resources.


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