I want to make it clear to people who are new to yoga that just because you are doing yoga doesn’t mean it’s good for you—yoga can hurt you or it can be incredibly healing.
An old teacher of mine Joel Kramer breaks it down this way. There are two types of people who do yoga: Pushers and Sensualists.
Simply put, a Pusher is someone who ignores bodily feedback in order to achieve an end goal in the pose. In the mind of the pusher, how the pose looks is most important—a pose must be achieved at any cost and bodily sensations are just an annoyance to how the attainment of the perfect pose so they “push” past it.
Signals to stop may be “loud” like pinching sensation in the joints or they may be “subtle” like short, erratic breath. If we are not feeling ourselves breathing in yoga asana, in particular if the breath is short, choppy, forced or erratic in a pose then we have lost our best barometer for where we are on this spectrum of pushing vs. being sensual.
The point is a pusher is “unplugged” from his or her feedback loops. The body is something to be conquered or dominated by our strong will. The outer form is more important than the inner experience.
These are the people who do not ignore bodily feedback while practicing yoga asana. He/She may still have a goal to go deeper in a yoga pose (I think most of us want to “get better” at yoga asana), however they honor the sensations of the body. When there are clear signals to stop, they stop. The body is something our mind wants to cooperate with to create an experience of beauty inside.
We have a Blissology Yoga Mantra that sums this up: “yoga is a feeling, not a shape.” As soon as we loose the feeling of calm, relaxed focus in order to create some kind of shape, we are at high risk for injury. Conversely, when we get it right, we can build healthy and sustainable relationships with our bodies.
This isn’t just about safety, these changes have massive personal and social implications as well—what we learn on the mat we apply to life. We learn how to create sustainable relationships with our friends and families, our communities and with nature.