Listen and Respond
Last weekend I went to a training where one of the classes was a vinyasa class that was intended to be practiced with the eyes closed. Yes, the whole time! This seemed interesting and cool in theory, but within the first ten minutes or so into the practice, just doing a gentle warm up and starting some 1/2 sun salutes was enough to trigger a vertigo episode. Full on room spinning dizziness. I took a rest in child's pose and after a few minutes, I tried to join back in the sun salutations. I thought maybe if I kept my eyes open I could at least continue doing the practice, but no. I was already completely disoriented and nauseous. It simply wasn't possible. So, I really had no choice but to lay on my back with my eyes open, staring at the ceiling, waiting for my world to stop spinning. It was a bummer because I was doing a teacher training. I was in a roomful of teachers, and even though their eyes were closed, i couldn't help but worry if I would be judged for bailing on the class. Would the instructor think I was a wuss? A bad student? A bad teacher? I had already established that I couldn't move through the practice, but I did have a choice about the reactions that came up. I could stew about it and let the anxiety keep building up, or I could accept the situation and make the most of it. The theme of the class was all about connecting to love. I could do that laying on my mat, and eventually sitting up in meditation. I ended up having a really practice (and eventually recovered from the vertigo episode).
Many yoga teachers will say "listen to your body" but it's not always clear what that means. It's not just the listening, it's the responding intelligently to what you discover. If you start experiencing pain, or even have a hint of "maybe I shouldn't be doing this..." that is only the first step. You have the choice to continue or to change what you're doing. This is hugely empowering! The more sensitive you can become to your body's signals and deeper inspiration, you might have a glimmer of an idea that can make your practice feel not merely pain-free but more lively and satisfying to you. This is what makes me a bit of a punk in other people's yoga classes when I try something and realize it's not working for me. I go rogue! Not everyone likes this, but I love seeing this in my own classes. You have my permission to go nuts! Change what you're doing. Rest. Do the thing that will make you feel most awesome. Then try doing that outside of yoga class, too.