I ran a tough trail marathon last weekend, complete with a full-on Superman-style wipeout. (Thank you, Locust Pose, for giving me the back strength to keep my nose from breaking as I went down!) As the week went on, I was still too sore for my regular asana practice, so I enjoyed mellow poses at home instead of taking classes at my studio. I even had a colleague demo when I taught Monday night, two days postrace, as I was too stiff to get up and down easily. In no state for a physical yoga practice, I listened to my body and gave it time to heal.
The point of this sharing is that I did it to myself, and willingly (save for the fall). Soreness like this is typical after a big race. Knowing how I felt in the days after the race, I am amazed at the hardiness of my students, some of whom come to class to “stretch it out” a few days after a similarly long race or a hard match. While yoga certainly has plenty to offer everyone in terms of connection, mental focus, rejuvenation, and attentiveness to the breath, even a semi-rigorous asana practice can be out of place near peak competition. You can’t stretch out the soreness of trauma to the muscles. Time is the real healer here.
Keep this in mind as spring arrives and you spend more time in physical pursuits off the mat: the intensity of your yoga asana practice and your other activities needs to be in inverse proportion. As sport training ramps up, your yoga practice should grow more mellow. Just before and after a peak event, give yourself some time to explore the very gentlest of poses, as well as breath exercises and meditation for staying grounded before the event and for recovering afterward. Think supported backbends, mellow reclining twists, legs up the wall, and yoga nidra.
While you may be fortunate enough to find a teacher who empathizes with your needs as an active yogi and who can help you modify your asana practice accordingly, the burden of self-care lies on you. Consider where you are in your training cycle. What physical demands are coming up in the next week? You’ll need to be rested for those. What physical demands are coming up in the next month or two? Asana, practiced wisely, can help you build strength for those. Take stock of your needs, and take steps to protect your body and your energy. Your sport and your practice will both benefit when they are not in direct physical competition with each other.