The Spirit Is Willing But The Body Is Balking

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GET A SECOND OPINION. Should you always ask your doctor’s permission before
starting yoga? “This can be sound advice,” says physician Baxter Bell. “But to be honest, the fact that we hear this so often reflects our litigious society. A lot of doctors just don’t know enough about yoga to make that call.” Physicians unfamiliar with yoga, Bell explains, will tend either to be exceedingly cautious and discouraging (if they’ve heard only of the vigorous styles) or to OK it for anyone (if they think all yoga is extremely gentle). Find a health care provider familiar enough with yoga to guide you.

“If you have certain issues,” says yoga teacher Sarah Swersey, “sign up for a class geared to your needs.” Practicing with others who share your condition—be it arthritis, breast cancer, an eating disorder, or pregnancy—generates self-confidence for you and a support network for all. Can’t find such a class? Ask your favorite teacher for a private session.

Sometimes it’s rest, rather than activity, the body needs. As Swersey notes of her own five months off the mat, “I have no regrets waiting as long as I did to start yoga again after my son was born. Up until then, I wasoverwhelmed with being a new mom. That was my priority. I decided it was OK to take a break.” In cases of illness or injury, forcing a premature return to yoga may backfire in the form of reinjury or mental resistance. If you have any doubts about your readiness for health reasons, go slowly.

Jennifer Barrett, a YJ contributing editor and freelance writer, lives in suburban Connecticut.