I call them mistakes, but really, they’ve been valuable learning opportunities.
I can confidently declare that I was doing my best with the knowledge and awareness I had at the time. However, that doesn’t change the fact that given what I know I would not do now what I did then!
So, here they are, my “mistakes”:
1. I severely overstretched.
Some of my joints are naturally hyper-mobile and in the first few years I practiced yoga I totally exploited this. What I lacked in soft-tissue flexibility or strength, I made up for by moving through my joints to get me to where I wanted to go.. which usually meant, waaaaay deeper into a pose than was necessary (or safe and sustainable for my body).
This most often showed up in sinking into the deepest expression of a hip-opener or finagling my way into a deeper twist or back bend. While it may have “looked good” on the outside, what was happening on the inside wasn’t pretty!
After a few years of practicing like this, my joints (especially my hips!) finally said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! I started to have regular instances of my hips just going completely out of whack. And my spine. This created a lot of pain and discomfort, immobility, and an inability to do the things I loved, like yoga and hiking.
It has taken YEARS to undo the damage I did by pushing my joints to the max. Not all of this is yoga’s fault – for sure, some of the misalignment in my body was born before I took up yoga. But, the carelessness with which I practiced definitely exacerbated the issues. Thanks to the awesome team of body-workers I connected with, consistency, patience and a total overhaul in the way I approach yoga, I now practice in a way that doesn’t put my joints into peril – or my body into pain!
2. I did too much yoga.
I can hear some of you go, “Huh?! Too much yoga? How can that be?”. But, I’m telling you, for me at least – it’s the truth. I had been an athlete through most of childhood and adolescence, playing softball, basketball and volleyball competitively, as well as dancing and golfing.
When I found yoga in high school, I loved it and that love continued in the years to come. But, what happened as I got a little older and didn’t have the same access to organized sports, was that my whole recreational and fitness routine became about yoga.
In my early 20’s I had some stints in gyms, riding cross-trainers and feebly trying to lift weights 😉 but, between 18-24 years old yoga was basically my sole physical activity. While there were many benefits, both physically and mentally, to being on the mat that much, there was a downside too. That saying ‘everything in moderation’ is truly on to something – just because yoga is “good for you” doesn’t mean you can’t over do it! And I did.
I would do yoga 5-7 days a week. In a way, I was strong and flexible – but, what I call “yoga strong and flexible”. Ie. my body was trained to move in specific ways and could execute those postures easily and gracefully, but I was completely out of shape in other ways. I wasn’t really that strong – my upper body was lacking (which showed up as tweaked shoulders in vinyasa), my core wasn’t great (which contributed to the stress on my joints) and my cardio and endurance were abysmal!
In my mid-20’s I re-introduced other activities into my fitness regimen, most notably, pilates and long distance walking and hiking. The mix of activities, working different muscle groups and ranges of motion, in different ways, has ended up being far more beneficial in combination than yoga was all on its own.
3. I focused on how things looked more than how they felt.
Those who practice with me now may find this hard to believe, because I think I come across as the antithesis to what I call “fancy yoga”, but there was a time in the first few years that I practiced that I too was pulled by the allure of the fancy poses.
During this time I paid more attention to how a pose looked on the outside, than how it FELT on the inside. I wanted to nail the hand stands and arm balances and the pretzel like poses. I didn’t listen to my body and I didn’t prioritize my breath – and I even posted pictures online sometimes of these fancy poses and waited for people to ooh and ahh. UGH – how misguided!
Luckily (I feel) for me, my enchantment with fancy poses didn’t last too long. It only took a tweaked shoulder and a sprained knee as the wake up call for me to question, “What am I really doing here? And why?”.
I came to the conclusion that the physical aim of a yoga practice is to support us to maintain functional and comfortable movement and enable us to enjoy the other physical adventures of our lives. Ie. We want to be able to put our socks on as we get older, twist and reach for something on a shelf without pulling something, sleep well, play with children, keep up our golf games or hiking and so on.
The fancy poses don’t matter to me anymore. And, my practice has become much richer as a result.
So, there they are! The 3 biggest mistakes I made while doing yoga. Do they resonate? Do you have a “mistake” you’ve made or something you’ve learned through your practice? Share below!